FCC Wants Amazon, eBay to Stop Selling Fake Set-Top Boxes

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last Friday sent a letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), and Devin Wenig, CEO of eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY), asking the e-commerce giants to “take steps to eliminate non-FCC compliant devices or devices that fraudulently bear the FCC logo” from their websites.

Both Amazon and eBay have been troubled for years by counterfeit product makers who slap a well-known brand name on a shoddy product. One watchdog, TheCounterfeitReport.com, claims to have removed 25 million fake items from e-commerce websites, at least some of which may be potentially dangerous.

The FCC is particularly concerned about the fraudulent use of the commission’s logo on set-top box devices. According to the FCC’s letter:

Specifically, nine set-top box distributors were referred to the FCC in October for enabling the unlawful streaming of copyrighted material, seven of which displayed the FCC logo, although there was no record of such compliance.

The FCC acknowledges that both Amazon and eBay “have taken proactive steps to remove devices that are marketed as facilitating piracy” and that “any participation by your companies in selling non-compliant devices is unintentional.”

Despite these efforts, the FCC says, “devices continue to make it to consumers through your websites.” To eliminate such devices, here’s what the FCC wants the Amazon and eBay to do:

[I]f your company is made aware by the Commission, with supporting evidence, that a particular device is using a fraudulent FCC label or has not been appropriately certified and labeled with a valid FCC logo, I respectfully request that you commit to swiftly removing these products from your sites. If this situation arises, I also ask that you provide information involving the manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers to the Commission.

Both Amazon and eBay have already replied and committed to keep working with the FCC to keep these fraudulent set-top boxes off their websites.

Still, as Sarah Perez at TechCrunch points out, one of the most popular devices available to enable piracy of streaming content is Amazon’s own Fire TV stick. Using an open source library called Kodi, it is possible to steal streaming content, and Amazon sells a number of Kodi devices (search words “kodi box”) as well as a tutorial on how to install Kodi on a Fire TV stick. Despite its commitment to target devices that allow users to steal content, Amazon is apparently willing to do exactly what it’s asked by the FCC and nothing more.

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