Popcorn Time could
Future set-top boxes could incorporate apps like Popcorn Time iStock

Members of the Congress have raised concerns about the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) proposal to tear down the anti-competitive barriers to make it easier for software, devices and other solutions to compete with the set-top boxes.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte and ranking member John Conyers warned that apps like Popcorn Time could take advantage of future set-top box market. In a letter to the FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the members expressed their concern that the FCC proposal could lead to "unauthorised distribution of copyrighted content".

According to the FCC, about 99% of the pay-TV subscribers are chained to set-top boxes. The lack of competition has left the consumers with few choices while making them pay high prices. The average American household pays $231 (£159) in rental fees annually, which comes to $20bn a year altogether for all US consumers. While the cost of cable set-top boxes has risen 185% over the years, the cost of computers, television and mobile phones has dropped 90%.

To deal with this, the FCC came up with the proposal that will allow consumers to choose how they access the Multichannel Video Programming Distributor's (MVPDs) on a pay-TV set-top box or app, or through devices such as tablet or smart TV using software.

The Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) has warned that opening up the set-top box market to third party vendors could create piracy issues, reports TorrentFreak. The MPAA warned: "No matter what you think about the pay-TV set-top box market, the FCC may not promote alternatives by taking the intellectual property of the content industry and giving it to some members of the technology industry, or by making it easier for pirate site operators to build a black market business by stealing that content."

The same concern has also been raised by the members of House Judiciary Committee. In the letter to FCC, they noted: "As members of the House of Judiciary Committee, which oversees our nation's copyright laws, we recognise the harm to the American economy caused by the theft of copyrighted work. Creators have shared concerns that under FCC's proposed rule, future set-top boxes or their replacements could purposely be designed to distribute pirated content obtained from sources that primarily offer stolen content."

"For example, apps such as Popcorn Time that focus on providing access to piratical content have tried to match the format and ease of use of legitimate apps to mask the theft of copyrighted content.

"Creators are legitimately worried about the prospect that future set top boxes, or their functional equivalents, could incorporate apps such as Popcorn Time or its functionality, or otherwise lead to the unauthorised distribution of copyrighted works," reads the letter.

Not only the Congress members but members from several other groups are also opposing the FCC proposal.