OVERNIGHT TECH: MTV, Comedy Central go dark in DirecTV standoff with Viacom

The Lede: A total of 17 Viacom channels, including MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, went off the air for DirecTV customers on Wednesday as the companies were unable to agree to a new contract.

DirecTV and Viacom were quick to pin the blame for the blackout on each other.

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In a statement, DirecTV claimed that Viacom was demanding a 30 percent increase on the price to carry its channels — which would amount to an extra $1 billion.

"We have absolutely no problem compensating Viacom fairly, but they have now knowingly put our customers in the unreasonable position of either accepting their extravagant financial demands or losing some of their favorite TV shows," said Derek Chang, a DirecTV vice president.

Viacom said it proposed a "fair deal" but that DirecTV "refused to engage in meaningful conversation."

"We are hopeful that DirecTV will work with us toward a resolution, and stop denying its subscribers access to the networks they watch most," the company said.

Viacom even took popular programs, such as "The Daily Show," off the Internet to prevent DirecTV subscribers from watching the shows online.

Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge said "the scale of Viacom's overreaction is unprecedented."

"It is apparent that Viacom puts little stock in the Internet and the online future of video if it is willing to use all Internet users as a pawn in its negotiations," John Bergmayer, an attorney for Public Knowledge, said in a statement.

Public Knowledge argues IP bill resurfaces SOPA text: Public Knowledge CEO Gigi Sohn urged House Judiciary Committee leaders to withdraw its consideration of the Intellectual Property Attaché Act, arguing the measure includes language from an anti-piracy bill widely opposed by the public and Internet community. The bill proposes to establish an IP attaché program in U.S. embassies or diplomatic missions and would move the administrator for policy and external affairs role at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the Commerce Department.

"Public Knowledge believes that diverting even more scarce taxpayer resources towards an enforcement only approach will achieve nothing," Sohn wrote. "It makes little sense to add to the bureaucracy when the current copyright system is in desperate need of modernization."

Public Knowledge was a fierce opponent of the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Sohn also said the bill was drafted in secret, and encouraged the committee to discuss future intellectual property proposals with the public.

A Judiciary Committee aide said the new IP bill is not a follow-up to SOPA and it is still in the process of finalizing the bill.

“Since releasing that draft, for which there is bipartisan and industry support, we are making some changes based on feedback from outside groups and members," the aide said. "We plan to circulate a new draft based off those changes to ensure that the development  of this bill continues to be an open and transparent process.”

NTIA to examine app privacy: The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will hold a meeting on Thursday to examine the privacy of mobile applications.

The all-day meeting is the first in the Obama administration's push to get companies to abide by its online privacy "bill of rights."

The White House unveiled the privacy principles in February and urged Congress to enact the protections into law, but there has been little movement on Capitol Hill. 

As part of the privacy push, NTIA will lead discussions between consumer groups, advertisers and Web companies to develop voluntary industry codes of conduct to protect users' privacy.

Although the government cannot force a company to agree to the codes of conduct, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will have the power to sue any company that agrees to abide by the codes, but then violates them.

NTIA said it chose to focus its first series of meetings on mobile apps because they pose "distinct consumer privacy challenges." NTIA noted that reading long privacy policies on mobile devices can be difficult because of the small screens.

Mobile apps can also access particularly sensitive personal data, such as the user's location.

The agency said the goal of the meetings is to develop a code of conduct that "promotes transparent disclosures to consumers concerning mobile apps’ treatment of personal data." 

Thursday's meeting will focus primarily on developing a framework for future discussions on mobile apps.


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