Call it a win-win. The FCC has issued rules changing the way cable operators can send out their signals, and they actually work for IPTV boxes like Boxee. Boxee is a device that aggregates all the media you have in your home, including feeds from your TV and computers.
Due to concerns about piracy, cable providers have been asking the FCC to allow them to encrypt basic cable channels. Up to now, basic cable has been viewable without a cable box to any TV with a digital QAM tuner. However, now, according to new documents from the FCC, cable providers can now encrypt their programming as long as the provide a clear data feed for IPTV boxes like Boxee. It’s not clear how this would prevent piracy, as it’s likely that the feed could be used to pirate programming even more efficiently than before. However, it would require a special box in the home that converted from the traditional QAM digital cable feed to the IP format. Perhaps this box would “tag” the data so that, if it were used illegally the source could be tracked.
This is simply the latest, and certainly not the last, word on pirating content. For generations, people have sought to use content in honest and fair ways, whether it is recording a mix tape from the radio or putting a movie on a laptop to watch later. On the other hand, the seedier elements of our society have sought to profit from the work of others by selling illegal copies of music and movies. There are also those who seek to do no harm and simply don’t recognize the damage that’s done by copying a 1,000 song library from a friend.
Changes in technology haven’t done much to stop hard-core pirates over the long term. As new anti-piracy measures come in, they are often “cracked” quickly and easily. On the other hand, regular people can find some home in the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Pandora and in-home boxes like Boxee that aggregate and stream content legally, giving people what they wanted in the first place – a flexible and easy way to take content with them or watch it when they want to.
The latest rules from the FCC definitely point to a reasonable attitude toward media streaming, which is smart considering that the apparatus for large-scale media piracy is probably ready to go if the government started cracking down. Many have compared anti-piracy laws to drug or alcohol laws that have just driven business underground, and when that happens, no one wins.