Digital Signage Today has an original piece on its site about the legality of running something like CNN in a frame, surrounded by content.
The Dallas lawyer doesn’t flat say, “You do this and you’ll get your butt sued.”
But in the general vicinity of plain English, he seems to be saying, at least in the US, that you could get in trouble:
Altering Content: According to copyright laws, any user other than the owner of the cable transmission does not have the right to alter the transmission in any way. This means that if the digital signage network in any way changes the original appearance or delivery of the cable content – for example by dividing the television screen into parts and displaying advertising around the cable content – the signage provider would be liable.
Licensing: If secondary transmission of cable signals, modified or not, is illegal, how do bars transmit sports events for patrons? Licensing. And the same applies to music. Bars and other venues license the right to play cable television for a fee. Ignoring an available license program and transmitting content without permission could result in fines or a lawsuit. One such licensing organization is The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). ASCAP has been known to pursue even small, family-owned bars for copyright infringement actions.
I’ve never run or helped launch a client network that had embedded live TV up here in the frozen north (where we’ve now had colour TV for almost three years!!!), but I did have a partner company who had $500 an hour lawyers look at it and conclude it was OK as long as the signal was not altered.
Would love to hear opinions and experience from both sides, as a lot of people do this.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.