FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly has requested the heads of Amazon and eBay to eliminate sales of pirate media boxes which illegally display the FCC compliance logo. Lettered to Devin Wenig and Jeff Bezos, O’Reilly seeks the complete removal of such devices, noting that their fraudulent labeling is worsened by the effect they have on the entertainment industries.
Over the years, anyone looking for piracy-configured set-top box could hop onto Amazon or eBay. Search terms like “Kodi” or “fully-loaded” were ushered with page after page of Android-type boxes, each ready for illegal plug-and-play entertainment consumption following delivery.
Even though the problem remains on both platforms, one is less likely to find an infringing device then say 12 to 24 months ago. Amazon & eBay have tightened the screws on sellers of such devices with mounting pressure from entertainment industry groups. Now, they’ve both received requests to stem sales from an entirely different group.
FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s letter to eBay CEO Devin Wenig and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first spotted by Ars calls on these platforms to take action against piracy-configured boxes that fail to comply with FCC equipment authorization requirements or wrongly display FCC logos, contrary to United States law.
O’Rielly’s letter reads “Disturbingly, some rogue set-top box manufacturers and distributors are exploiting the FCC’s trusted logo by fraudulently placing it on devices that have not been approved via the Commission’s equipment authorization process.”
“Specifically, nine set-top box distributors were referred to the FCC in October for enabling the unlawful streaming of copyrighted material, seven of which displayed the FCC logo, although there was no record of such compliance.”
O’Reilly admits copyright infringement aspects fall outside the jurisdiction of the FCC, but said it is still troubling knowing many of these devices are used to stream infringing content, “exacerbating the theft of billions of dollars in American innovation and creativity.”
As stated above, both Amazon and eBay have taken steps to minimize sales of pirate boxes on their respective platforms on copyright infringement grounds, and O’Reilly duly noted that. But, he says devices continue to be sold to members of the public who may believe they are legal since they’re available for sale from legitimate companies.
“For these reasons, I am seeking your further cooperation in assisting the FCC in taking steps to eliminate the non-FCC compliant devices or devices that fraudulently bear the FCC logo,” the Commissioner writes (pdf).
“Moreover, if your company is made aware by the Commission, with supporting evidence, that a particular device is using a fraudulent FCC label or has not been appropriately certified and labeled with a valid FCC logo, I respectfully request that you commit to swiftly removing these products from your sites.”
If the request is implemented, then O’Reilly would like both platforms to hand over information of offending manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers.
Amazon quickly responded to the FCC. In a letter published by Ars, Amazon’s Public Policy Vice President Brian Huseman assured O’Reilly that the company is dedicated to tackling rogue devices on copyright-infringement grounds and also when there is fraudulent use of the FCC’s logos.
Huseman said dealing with the problem is a top priority by pointing out that Amazon is a vital member of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) – a group that has been taking legal action against sellers of infringing streaming devices (ISDs) and those who assemble infringing add-ons for Kodi-type systems.
Huseman wrote, “Our goal is to prevent the sale of ISDs anywhere, as we seek to protect our customers from the risks posed by these devices, in addition to our interest in protecting Amazon Studios content.”
In 2017, Amazon became the first online marketplace to ban the sale of streaming media players that promote or facilitate piracy. To thwart the sale of these devices, they proactively scan product listings for signs of potentially infringing products, and also invest heavily in sophisticated, automated real-time tools to review a variety of data sources and signals to identify duplicate goods.
“These automated tools are supplemented by human reviewers that conduct manual investigations. When we suspect infringement, we take immediate action to remove suspected listings, and we also take enforcement action against sellers’ entire accounts when appropriate.”
Huseman revealed that since the implementation of a proactive policy against such devices, “tens of thousands” of listings have been blocked from Amazon. Also, civil actions like making criminal referrals to law enforcement as part of ACE.
Huseman concludes “As noted in your letter, we would also appreciate the opportunity to collaborate further with the FCC to remove non-compliant devices that improperly use the FCC logo or falsely claim FCC certification. If any FCC non-compliant devices are identified, we seek to work with you to ensure they are not offered for sale.”