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26 comments

Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

Posted April 18, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes

Late last month, news site Gründerszene reported that Germany’s Kommission für Zulassung und Aufsicht (ZAK) der Landesmedienanstalten [roughly, the Commission for Admission and Supervision for the State Media Office] demanded that popular Twitch.tv streaming channel PietSmietTV pay between €1,000 and €10,000 for a broadcasting license. For those not in the know, which includes me before I heard this news, Twitch is essentially a live streaming site focused on video gaming.

Like many online streaming channels on Twitch, YouTube and similar sites, PietSmiet mostly streams video game playthroughs and personal thoughts on current events. The ZAK invoked a law requiring that any German broadcaster reaching more than 500 people hold a license, and classified Twitch as a Rundfunkangebot [broadcasting service]. The law is essentially in place to prevent TV broadcasters from transmitting without a license, so the State Media Office more or less turned it inside out in order to demand PietSmiet’s licensing.

Peter Smits, who founded and runs PietSmiet, probably has little to worry about personally. His is one of the most popular German-language video game channels, and his YouTube clips hit the 100 or 200K visitor mark within hours of posting, so PietSmiet likely drives serious revenue through ads and subscriber donations. But live streaming communities are up in arms at what they see as invoking outdated legislation to make a little cash on what’s essentially free, unlicensed content. Even the State Media Office admitted that the law doesn’t make much sense and might be changed in the future, so their actions might be a one-off anyway.

Fair or not, retroactively requiring licenses for unregulated broadcasting has some precedents. In the early 1900s, for example, amateur radio broadcasting was all the rage. But as more and more broadcasters took to the airwaves their signals began overlapping, leading to the 1927 Radio Act requiring licenses for frequency bands and eventually to the creation of the FCC. Classifying streaming as broadcasting could be pointing the way to more centralized management and oversight of what’s now essentially a wide-open landscape.

The streaming-as-broadcasting issue sheds light on issues around gatekeeping and cash flow around the more or less unregulated internet. Compare the internet to cable TV, in which content is provided by a network, which is then bid on by a cable company and packaged for a subscriber fee. Internet services are controlled and monetized by ISPs, but with free wi-fi existing almost everywhere the internet could now be thought of as the new broadcast TV, freely available to anyone with an antenna. The role of online streamers in this scheme is still murky. But if any government tries to enforce a license on a streaming channel reaching over 500 people (a tiny population in an online environment), a lot of non-monetized channels will go down quickly without much of a fight.

It remains to be seen whether Germany’s media office will follow through on its demands, and whether it will expand its reach to require other channels to obtain licenses. Given the firehose-like nature of data on the internet, it’s unlikely that they’re trying to limit bandwidth, and perhaps more likely that they’re just trying to make a little cash off a popular channel. Or maybe it’s just another attempt by mainstream media providers to put the slightest damper on the massive stream of free online content.

Image credit: Tom Sundstrom / CC BY-ND 2.0

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#1

Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 12:14 AM

What's to stop him from hosting his site outside the country?

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#2

Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 7:42 AM

Doesn't matter which country, whether it is, or isn't, one thing I know, That is no longer a concern of The United States.

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#3

Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 9:19 AM

This isn't a government agency protecting the public. This is a goober mint agency snatching control, and bring in a cash cow by re-interpreting the laws. Someone put a lot of thought, into how they could get more revenue, and get more control over the streaming services.

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#17
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 10:03 PM

'Zackly. Licensing of broadcasts was(is) to protect the limited spectrum for the 'overall good'. There is some similarity on the Internet but it is not nearly as limited. Technically, we're all broadcasters on the Internet, so the argument becomes hard to defend.

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#19
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/19/2017 7:16 AM

But if there's a way to molest and rape good intentions to make money off of that control, someone will find it.

A small Pacific country was buying up the limited satellite position openings, not to put a satellite up there,... but to make a profit. Futures you could call it.

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#4

Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 9:34 AM

The whole concept of state media office, reminds me somehow of former East Germany during the cold war. In the United States we have something called the FCC, so is that completely analogous to the ZAK? Does Germany have Freedom of the Press? I doubt it.

Sometimes I think it might be nice to have "Freedom from the Press", since I wind up listening to so many pundits blathering on about things they have no clue about.

Sounds like to me, Deutschland is Uber Broke, and needs money, since GB is leaving the EU. Why do Germans fume so, when they are poked in the eye?

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#18
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 10:07 PM

For me, freedom from the press is now the Oh Eff Eff button. It's used very liberally these days. Green Acres on MeTV is way more enjoyable. And Petticoat Junction and Beverly . . . .

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#5

Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 10:35 AM

We're living in the golden age right now, where almost anything is free on the internet. Enjoy it while you can. It's only a matter of time before anything freely available gets controlled and taxed.

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#6
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 11:31 AM

That is because most people allow the deluded to think the name of their State is Taxachusetts.

I just hope they don't change Texas to Taxes. It could mean war.

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#7
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 12:56 PM

No, Texas' state goobermunt is more subtle about it: turn every bluddy road into a tollway.

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#8
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 1:29 PM

You can thank Oklahoma for that. If you ever cross the State line out of Paris into OK land, you will notice something immediately about roads. I will let you discover that for yourself.

Again, I am exercising my discretion as a hint of valor here. Best not to throw unlit dynamite at Okies anyway. They have a tendency to light it and throw it back.

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#9
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 1:30 PM

I heard from an Oklahomian that Texas model their state after the great state of Oklahoma...

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#11
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 1:43 PM

That is really funny considering Texas was a nation, and then a State before Oklahoma was an organized territory.

It used to be called: "The Indian Nations". Lots of good people moved in there from other parts of the country. Then the Sooners (mostly Irish) showed up.

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#12
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 1:57 PM

You can still see the building that was the Texas embassy in Paris

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#13
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 2:37 PM

I brought up the same issue with this okie... and he's said, on one hand Texans are a little slow.... on the other hand, they jump into things way too quick and it still takes them some time to get to where they're going...

anyways,... thanks for the history lesson...

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#10
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 1:33 PM

OK's old license tags used to read "Oklahoma is OK"

Why?

Because they couldn't spell 'mediocre'.

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#14
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 5:15 PM

I thought that was to make it easier on residents who had trouble spelling Oaklahomer, so they would remember that it is ok to abbreviate, OK...

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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 6:08 PM

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#24
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/24/2017 11:24 PM

'... OK's old license tags used to read "Oklahoma is OK"...'

The 7th President of the United States...or perhaps his detractors.

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#25
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/25/2017 10:22 AM

What does Andrew Jackson have to do with it? The Choctaw words okla humma means "the red people". It has always been okla humma one way or the other, and to state otherwise is sheer foolishness. My father was adopted into the Choctaw tribe as a teen, while he was an orphan. His Choctaw mother loved him very much, although I was not privileged to meet her in this life.

Please do be careful in making any denigrating remarks about Oklahoman folk, some of them are my blood, and I would not take it kindly.

On the other hand, I will be happy to tell all the Oklahoma and Okie jokes I can muster.

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#26
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/25/2017 11:00 AM

Consider the other half...

...the term 'ok'. It is rumored to have originated with Jackson.

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#16
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/18/2017 8:58 PM

Fortunately for me our unofficial state motto for citizen freedom and economic success is to look at what the rest of the country is doing than do the opposite!

Gets me thinking about how much longer it will be until the big internet super server centers start moving here.

Cheap reliable electricity and a state government who actually is willing to work with new tech businesses rather than against them and a workforce that still thinks that showing up on time for work every day and doing their jobs is why they get their paychecks.

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#21
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/20/2017 12:26 AM

Yeah well turns out generally you gotta pay them to locate locally....

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#22
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/20/2017 7:16 AM

actually... that would be known as a large city in ND

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#23
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/24/2017 1:40 AM

For something that typically consumes megawatts there appears to be no evidence of cooling systems or even backup generators.

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#20
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Re: Is Live Streaming "Broadcasting"?

04/19/2017 6:39 PM

What is free on the Internet? Access is not generally free. Still ads are all over the place. Pop-ups pop up. Opinions, comments, discussions can be commandeered by sophisticated professional bloggers posing as regular Joe, but with focused funded agenda (pay no attention to the buffoons posting skin creme ad comments in CR4, those idiots aren't good examples of much other than being bad examples). You trade yet another avenue for advertisements by giving up your email to register for sites. The Internet certainly isn't free of scams nor of derisive misinformation.

I don't consider it free, but there are parts with appealing value.

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