FC: Another view on Replay TV and forcible-content-watching

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Tue Jun 11 2002 - 17:46:57 PDT

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    From: "Allen Hutchison" <allenat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    Subject: An alternative view on the Replay TV issue...
    Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2002 10:20:38 -0700
    Hi Declan,
    Here is an alternative view of the Replay TV issue, that I haven't heard
    presented so far. Please feel free to post this to politech if you find it
    Using Replay TV to skip commercials is not theft. Actually it should be
    completely legal, as the people of the united states have already paid for
    programming on the public airwaves.
    First, the people of the US gave the broadcast companies access to the
    public airwaves. This access wasn't granted so that the broadcasters could
    then "sell" us programming. This access was granted so that the broadcasters
    could present us with content. We also granted the broadcasters the right to
    present us with advertising to help them meet the costs of producing the
    content they are presenting over the public airwaves.
    If you accept this premise, then using a Replay TV to skip advertising is
    not theft in any way. The people have already paid for the content of a TV
    broadcast with a very valuable public resource, the RF spectrum it is
    broadcast on. So there really is no contract between the TV viewer and the
    broadcaster when it comes to advertising. In effect we have already paid our
    Let me present you with some analogies:
    If I attend a conference, I will generally pay a fee to go to that
    conference. Then I am free to attend the seminars and go to the Vendor area.
    If I opt not to go to the vendor area no one accuses me of stealing the
    content at the trade show. I already paid for it, and when I did I accepted
    the fact that the conference organizers will provide a place for
    advertising. I can choose to submit myself to that advertising if I wish to,
    but there is no requirement to do so.
    If I pay to watch a movie in the theater I can opt to arrive late and miss
    the 15 minutes of previews and advertisements that precede the movie. Again
    the movie company and the theaters don't bar me from watching the movie
    because I missed the advertisements.
    Both of these examples are very similar to television. I pay for the right
    to be exposed to content (conference seminars in once case, and a movie in
    the other). At the same time I acknowledge the fact that there will be
    advertising present. In both cases I have to decide to expose myself to the
    advertising. It is not shoved down my throat, and I am not accused of
    stealing the content by anyone if I choose to ignore the advertising.
    Television is the same kind of situation. The public has already paid for
    the content of TV shows. We paid for this content by bartering the use of
    very valuable public RF spectrum to the broadcast companies. At the same
    time the public acknowledged the right of the broadcasters to present
    advertising in the content that they are obligated to provide.
    There is no contract between a person and the broadcasters to watch the
    advertising. There is no theft if a person decides to skip the advertising
    presented to him. In fact people have been doing just that for years. I
    often wait for an advertisement so that I can use the restroom, or get a
    I'm not stealing the content of a television broadcast when I skip an
    advertisement, I already paid for the content along with everyone else in
    the country.
    If the broadcast companies find that they are loosing ad revenue because a
    significant number of people are skipping their advertising they will have
    to find another way to pay for the costs of producing their content. There
    are many ways they can do this, but it has nothing to do with the people
    watching the show.
    Allen Hutchison
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