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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Periscope Problem

Two weeks ago, I talked with Kim Komando about two live streaming apps that are gaining popularity, Meerkat and Periscope. They're not the first to allow you to share what you're seeing with an online audience, but they're easier to use and adding users every day. But from the moment I heard about them, I wondered about how much easier they'll make it to pirate copyrighted content.

For instance, what's to stop people from sitting in a movie theater holding up their phones and live-streaming the film to people sitting at home. Who is going to stop a bunch of fans at a concert from holding up their phones and sharing the experience with people who hadn't paid for the privilege? Or a sporting event? HBO is already asking Periscope to take action against users who illegally streamed "Game Of Thrones" on Sunday night -- and I predict we're going to hear from more content providers concerned about this technology that threatens the very concept of rights fees.

The ability for anyone to live stream from their phone could be very useful when there's a major news event and someone is there to document it for the world before any media outlet is on the scene. Take last year's clashes between protesters and police in Ferguson, when having a raw, uninterrupted stream of live action was valuable, even if it only afforded one small perspective. These apps allow citizen journalists to show us more of the world.

I was going to add "without a gatekeeper" to that last sentence, implying a network or editor or correspondent, but realized that the person streaming the video would still be a gatekeeper, determining what we see and what aspects of an event to focus on.

Besides copyright violations, there are also privacy concerns. What's to stop paparazzi from stalking some celebrity with a live feed of everywhere they go and everything they do? What's to stop your creepy neighbor from doing the same with you? As always, technology is way ahead of the law and most legislators don't even know about these apps, let alone know what limits should be set on their use.