Industry Minister Brian Tobin has waded into the debate over JumpTV.com by signaling the government’s willingness to exclude the Internet from a regulatory regime that protects cable’s right to re-transmit television signals. Speaking at a lunch for the Canadian Film and Television Production Association Feb. 9 in Ottawa, the minister said the government intends to provide "meaningful protection" for the producers of film and television content. Asked later if that protection would extend to eliminating loopholes which would allow operations such as Jump to re-transmit local TV signals, Tobin said he couldn’t comment on that particular case (now in front of the Copyright Board). But he did say that section 31 of the Copyright Act would likely be amended to exclude Internet companies. The outspoken minister’s pronouncement isn’t the last word on the subject. Canadian Heritage’s Sheila Copps will also figure prominently in any decision on television re-tranmissions. Her department has already circulated a series of draft proposals for consideration by industry players (CNM, Jan. 24/01). Tobin’s comments come as the war of words intensifies between broadcasters and Internet companies such as JumpTV.com. At a Feb. 2 symposium organized by the University of Toronto’s Centre for Innovation Law and Policy, the level of debate was as acerbic as many industry veterans have seen in a long time. Amidst accusations of piracy and foot-dragging, Jump president Farrel Miller took on representatives of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and anti-iCraveTV lawyers to defend his business plan. In an impassioned performance, Miller told the assembled participants that JumpTV could only be considered as much of a "pirate" as Canadian cable operators which grew into a formidable distribution force by re-transmitting American broadcasts without paying royalties until reasonably recently. The cable industry, as represented by Canadian Cable Television Association VP Chris Taylor, adopted a neutral stance amid the vituperative debate, neither defending nor accusing JumpTV of violating Canadian law. In his animated comments, Miller told the conference that JumpTV’s case for re-transmission protection doesn’t differ from that already afforded the cable television companies in Canada. "You hear a lot from the media establishment about how the Internet is different," he said. "We don’t see it that way." He says JumpTV will offer a 4"x5" window for its signals at 30 frames per second, likely with a 12-second delay from the original airing. While some have made the delay inherent to transmitting signals over the ‘Net an issue, Miller says its unlikely that objection will hold up in court. "We don’t think any reasonable body or court is going to say a two-second delay is ok, a six-second delay is ok, but a 12-second delay isn’t," he said in reference to the delays that exist when re-transmitting over cable or by MMDS. "It’s pretty clear that with the advent of cable 30 years ago, it enabled many people to get a TV signal. Fifty years later, it’s no different. We’re introducing a new medium." David Kent, a lawyer for the Canadian Association of Broadcasters who took a lead role against iCraveTV, said no matter whether Jump is acting as a protected re-transmitter or not, it would be taking advantage of a compulsory regime he calls "expropriation". Further, Kent told the audience that regulators have crafted a fine balance between broadcasters and the cable companies, an equilibrium that would be disrupted by new Internet technologies. He says companies of JumpTV’s ilk would destroy the regional basis on which programming is sold, rendering the Internet rights for shows nearly valueless. "(JumpTV) wants to do with the broadcasters’ product what the broadcasters can’t do with their own product," he says. "It’s a bit of an odd situation." Kent also echoed comments made earlier in the day regarding calls for technology neutrality in legislation, saying that technology couldn’t be blind. In a morning session, McCarthy Tétrault lawyer and iCraveTV-hunter Peter Grant noted that JumpTV was asking to be treated differently from traditional broadcasters in that it isn’t seeking the licence by which traditional broadcasters are allowed to transmit their signals. Reacting to Kent’s comments, Global Television’s Gary Maavara asked the panel why copyright legislation should be interpreted in JumpTV’s favour. "Why do we need Jump TV to move (Internet programming) forward? I don’t see them doing anything that anyone else can’t do." Veteran U of T prof Hudson Janisch , pointed out that cable companies played a similarly disruptive role when they emerged in the 1960s.