Legal Eagles

The long arm of the law is catching up with IPTV as a judge in Connecticut ruled that AT&T's Uverse is a cable service and is therefore governed by the laws and rules that affect cablecos.

This may come as a life saver to some local TV operators in the US, who were in danger of being totally locked out of the new world order.

It would seem logical that services offering such similar functionality should be treated homogenously, but once again it does raise the issue of legislation in the Internet TV sector. It would seem to me that the legal issues can be divided into licensing, technology and content.

Licensing is the traditional tool legislators use to control and restrict the media industry. This has largely had the affect of limiting competition and restricting services available (as well as making them expensive). In many countries the licensing of services or spectrum is a nice little earner for the government and we can be sure that revenue generating opportunities presented by the growth in internet TV will not pass them by.

Technology issues, such as the security of P2P networks mentioned in the previous post, are complex and are likely to be addressed as much in civil proceedings as they are in government legislation.

Even more complex is content, but with the force of lobbying behind copyright protection expect the legislation here to be rapidly extended.

However, the reality is that legislation will always be behind the reality in the marketplace and it does present a minefield for companies in this industry who may find their business model no longer works as legislation changes.

Here are some hot spots:

Representation (ie showing people without their permission, which is already technically illegal in countries such as France) - this would rapidly cause chaos in the UGC world

P2P (see below) - is a threat to networks who have based themselves on this technology

Spectrum licensing - will the promise of Xg Technologies's spectrum beating technology kill the regulation of WiMax

Copyright - of course, with the promise of watermarking the content industry may have the technology to push back the tide in the near future

Regulation - the cost of regulation may be prohibitive for smaller operators if internet TV channels are treated the same as traditional channels