Content Neutrality – Who owns live content?

By Mika Skarp 

Net Neutrality can be understood as the user’s right to consume whatever content he or she wishes to. Consequently, service providers operating the information network are not allowed to favor or restrict any kind of content. Of course, there still exists legislation regarding illegal content, however, in general users are free to watch, listen to, or communicate with whatever or whomever they want. The freedom of information, as well as the freedom to express your opinion, is firmly anchored in many national constitutions.

Now, if the concept of Net Neutrality is turned around, should users also have the right to contribute whatever they want to the network? Thus, who owns production rights to live content and is that in line with the concept of Net Neutrality? Throughout the last century, broadcasting live video program has involved so much capital, expenditures, and knowledge, that no single individual could have done it on its own. Selling TV rights compared to selling an exclusive ticket to production companies, which then delivered the content to TV stations and from there to consumer. This has presented the business model for decades.

However, in times of mobile networks we have been able to reduce the data transfer cost and encoders have made it possible to start using cloud-based distribution channels. Now, technological innovation has reached a point where one phone (e.g. Sony Xperia) with a Cloudstreet internet connection using LTE can deliver a high-quality picture to YouTube Live using only one button. This system is so easy that anybody could start broadcasting to a network that has over one billion users, like Facebook. However, is this legal and moreover, should it be?

Imagine that you buy a ticket to an ice hockey game. You take your phone with you and stream the game to your Facebook page. At the same time, 100 other spectators in the arena with you do the same. This leads to many more cameras capturing the game than in a regular game coverage, without any extra cost for the production company or the teams. Would this lay the ground for sourced television? Another option would be home teams having their own cameras covering the game and distributing it live to followers on Social Media.