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Advocacy group: Copyright decision could benefit consumers and competition

The preliminary decision from District Court Judge George Wu issued finding that online video service FilmOn is entitled to a compulsory copyright licence has been applauded by US public interest group Public Knowledge, which has long advocated for regulatory parity for online video services.

John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge said that if upheld, the decision could help bring more competition to the video marketplace. “Similar services shouldn’t be subject to totally different rules depending on whether they’re offered over coaxial cable, fibre, satellite transmissions, or online,” he stated.

“Although we disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision in Aereo, it’s the law of the land. In that decision, the Court indicated that if a service appears to a viewer to be like a cable system, it ought to be treated like one under the law. In Aereo’s case, that meant it was liable for copyright infringement. But copyright law also contains a compulsory licence for cable systems, which allows them to broadcast programming without getting individual licences from programmers, provided they follow FCC guidelines. It is logical that if cable-like systems should be treated as cable systems under the law, this should apply to the compulsory licence, as well as to liability issues,” he argued.

“Even if this decision is not followed, it should focus attention on the disparate treatment under the law between traditional cable systems and online services., he concluded.

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