January 28, 2005 | By Fred von Lohmann

Kill P2P to Save TV?

Among the many briefs supporting Hollywood and the music industry in MGM v. Grokster is one from the National Association of Broadcasters. The NAB represents broadcasters (not cable or satellite-casters, just the ones with free FCC licenses, granted in the name of the "public interest").

Its take on the case? P2P must be banned, lest it erode the profits of broadcasters:

Continued deployment of software that facilitates P2P or similar systems that distribute audio and video programming without regard to the rights of copyright owners will consequently impair the ability of broadcast stations to garner the advertising revenue needed for their operations....

Funny, we recently heard the same thing from certain broadcasters in the fight over the "broadcast flag" regulations -- digital television technology must be locked down, all in the name of protecting ad-supported TV. In fact, they went so far as to threaten to stop broadcasting digital TV unless they got their way.

Too bad the NAB broadcasters didn't make that puerile threat in their brief: "Unless you ban P2P, we'll stop broadcasting." Because if they had, then we could have called their bluff, taken away their free spectrum, and given it to someone who is willing to play. I bet we'd find lots of eager, entrepreneurial takers (like Mark Cuban, at HDNet).

Oh, and did I mention that 85% of Americans now pay for their television programming? And that some of the most innovative programming to hit TV is produced by HBO, which manages without ads? Makes you wonder whether it's a good idea for the Supreme Court to start regulating Internet technologies to protect one, and only one, business model.

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