Regulatory and Other Legal Issues Impacting IPTV: What Does the Future Hold?

IPTV is a Reality

Television programs are now being delivered by a number of different platforms – cable, satellites and even the internet. While IPTV or Internet Protocol TV is relatively new in Canada, it has changed the way people watch television.

IPTV is becoming increasingly popular and the reasons aren’t difficult to guess. People have easy access to the internet and IPTV offers better quality audio and video than the traditional broadcasting modes of TV.

The IPTV Industry is Booming across the Globe

IPTV has changed the entire dynamics of television viewing across the globe. Communication giants in the US, Hong Kong and other parts of the world are spending millions of dollars on the IPTV rollout. But recently there has been an increase in the legal and regulatory issues related to IPTV in Canada as well.

You might have heard that three of the biggest television companies in Canada have requested the authorities to temporarily block the sale of digital set-up boxes. This is because a number of business have emerged that sell set-up boxes which allow viewers to watch copyrighted content for a fraction of the cost.

Rogers Communication along with a couple of other communication companies decided to take legal action against the companies that distribute content. In the Court documents, Rogers, Bell, and Videotron stated that set-up boxes allow customers to watch pirated and illegal content. Rogers Communications further stated that set-up box owners can also watch live TV content that is strictly reserved for cable TV subscribers.

The federal Court issued a statement which suspended the sales of digital set-up boxes. Justice Tremblay Lamer stated that this case wasn’t the first time any new technology was alleged to break copyright laws.

History of IPTV in Canada

Most Canadian cable operators have been trying to launch IPTV for years. This interestingly is an attempt to lure customers and keep away out of the grips of communication giants. But numerous questions are now surfacing about the legal status of IPTV in Canada.

Basically, the competition between telephone service providers and cable TV providers isn’t something new. Perhaps the biggest advantage of IPTV is that it can be integrated with other IP-based services such as high-speed internet and this is exactly where telecommunication companies have an edge over the traditional cable service providers.

Is IPTV a Real Threat?

IPTV broadcasts television over the internet usually for a monthly fee. The communication giants stated that IPTV is a strong threat to the traditional TV broadcasting business. In fact, IPTV would promote piracy as copyrighted content is made available to the subscribers through the internet.

Not all viewers might have the desire to watch or download pirated shows, but there’s a chance that people cancel their cable TV subscriptions to watch their favorite movies and TV shows for a lower cost. Yes, IPTV gives customers a greater choice over what they want to watch and the quality of video and audio is definitely better than what you get with regular satellite TV broadcast or cable TV.

An important thing to note here is that IPTV uses the internet and it is less likely to fall under the strict definition of broadcasting service. This means that IPTV providers are not required to have a license and even though they are not in direct competition with traditional cable TV providers, they can still lure away their loyal subscribers.

Remember that television service providers are uncomfortable with the features that come pre-installed with IPTV set-up boxes. Customers can now watch movies, TV shows and even live content that is only supposed to be streamed on Cable TV.

IPTV service providers and traditional cable TV often find themselves in a difficult negotiation position with content providers. As you can guess, content producers want the largest possible audience for their intellectual property and this is where IPTV is way ahead of traditional TV. It is difficult for satellite and cable TV to match the standards of high-quality transmission set by IPTV.

Is IPTV Legal?

IPTV has been able to attract viewers. But it has been a difficult task to impress every individual content provider to ensure that IPTV providers that the necessary legal rights to distribute the material and then manage these relationships in the future.

Simply put, legal issues associated with IPTV can be avoided if the service providers have a clearly defined deal with the original content producers. Remember that like traditional cable or satellite TV, there needs to be some regulation that decides how many customers can view the content, the cost service providers will pay and most importantly, where can customers watch IPTV. Presently IPTV is compatible with all kinds of display devices and can be viewed on TV, phone, computer, laptops and even projectors.

The main problem with IPTV is that there is no limitation to viewing points. All you need to do is connect your device to the nearest internet Hotspot to start viewing IPTV.

The bottom line is that IPTV service providers need to look at their regulatory framework and determine how they can facilitate the transmission of their TV service within the legal parameters. It is also important that the government agencies should also look at how IPTV and other mobile TV services should be regulated and this should not be limited to licensing requirements. The content broadcasted via IPTV needs to meet a certain set of regulatory obligations in the same manner as traditional broadcasters.

How long will it take for IPTV to be completely legal and free of trouble? Well, once the full trial for the case is over, we should be able to get more answers. More importantly, IPTV providers need to think about the ways they can protect themselves legally – the best way they can. In the meanwhile, there are a few providers providing IPTV services in Canada