FCC’s O’Rielly asks Amazon and eBay to stop selling bogus pay TV set-tops

FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly told Amazon and eBay that many of the bogus set-tops these platforms sell illegally carry the agency's logo. (Pixabay)

In a move that will only burnish the current Republican FCC regime’s popularity with the pay TV business, Commissioner Mike O’Rielly sent a letter to Amazon Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos and eBay chief executive Devin Wenig asking them to stop selling set-top boxes that are commonly used for illegal video streaming. 

“Although sufficiently disturbing on its own, these devices are particularly problematic as they are perpetrating intellectual property theft and consumer fraud. While the Commission has obligations on our end to prevent unauthorized set-top boxes from being available no matter their use, I seek your partnership in helping to remove these illegal products from the stream of commerce,” O’Rielly said in the letter (PDF).

O’Rielly didn’t call specific brand names of the alleged bogus boxes. But he did say that they are unlawfully using the FCC’s logo, which deems them to be authorized sellers of devices in the U.S. 

“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,” he wrote. “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 not record of such compliance.”

O’Rielly acknowledges that both Amazon and eBay have taken steps to curtail the sale of illicit set-tops. 

For its part, Amazon has joined a coalition of major media conglomerates in suing the makers of three OTT devices used to stream unauthorized content—TickBox, Dragon and Set-TV. 

TickBox, for example, relies on the popular media player Kodi, an open-source software that can be easily modified with add-ons to play illicit content.