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Thread: Unauthorised TV live streaming breaches copyright, rules European court

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    Unauthorised TV live streaming breaches copyright, rules European court

    Websites that retransmit live TV over the internet without permission from broadcasters are in breach of copyright, Europe's highest court has ruled in a judgment with wide ranging implications.

    The landmark ruling published on Thursday by the European court of justice (ECJ) means that dozens of sites showing live TV in the UK, including the London-based TVCatchup.com, must now get rights clearance from broadcasters.

    Legal experts said the decision was likely to spark a renewed clampdown by rights holders against similar sites, many of which show live sport.

    The case was brought by ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 against TVCatchup.com, which streams free-to-air shows from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

    The ECJ decided that the website, which carries pre-roll advertising before shows, was in breach of a 2001 law that describes the original broadcasters as "authors" of the programming, giving them the exclusive right to approve or restrict its use.

    "EU law seeks to establish a high level of protection for authors of works, allowing them to obtain an appropriate reward for the use of those works," the ECJ said in its judgment.

    "Television broadcasters may prohibit the retransmission of their programmes by another company via the internet.

    "That retransmission constitutes, under certain conditions, a 'communication to the public' of works which must be authorised by their authors."

    An ITV spokeswoman said: "ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 welcome the judgment by the European court of justice. The judgment makes it clear that, subject to some limited defences, broadcasters and content producers should be able to prevent unauthorised streaming of free-to-air channels.

    "We now look forward to the UK court's implementation of this judgment. We reserve the right to pursue any site or service we believe to be infringing our copyright or using our content in an unlicensed, illegal capacity."

    However, the TVCatchup.com director, Bruce Pilley, insisted that the ruling would impact "barely 30%" of its 12 million registered users.

    TVCatchup has argued that licences granted to ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 by media regulator Ofcom also apply to subsidiary channels such as its own service.

    Pilley said: "TVCatchup.com is here to stay, we are not thinly disguised purveyors of filth, we remain Europe's first and only legal internet cable service and the ECJ opinion affects only a handful of channels we carry."

    Until Thursday, it was unclear whether the unauthorised retransmission of live TV online was in breach of copyright laws.

    Tony Ballard, a broadcast lawyer and partner at London law firm Harbottle & Lewis, said the ruling was significant.

    He added: "It is one in an increasingly long line of decisions by which the court appears to be laying the foundations for a new European legal order in copyright and other forms of intellectual property.

    "On the one hand, it is strengthening authors' rights, such as by extending the concept of communication to the public, which subsumes the old broadcasting right, to encompass the activities of those who, like TVC, intervene in the distribution of broadcast services.

    "On the other, it is limiting those rights in pursuit of single market principles by outlawing exclusive national licensing, extending the principle of exhaustion of rights to downloads, limiting the amount that copyright proprietors may charge as royalties and balancing owners' rights against those of users."

    source: guardian.co.uk/media/2013/mar/07/tv-live-streaming
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    Could this affect FILMON and TV streaming services offered by Expat telephone companies in Spain?
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    The free retransmission of TV broadcast programmes via the internet by a third enterprise without the consent of the initial broadcaster is contrary to EU copyright law. On 7 March, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled (Case C-607/11) that retransmission constitutes, under certain conditions, “a communication to the public” of works that must be authorised by their author, in line with Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society.

    TVCatchup Ltd (‘TVC’) offers, via the internet, “live” streams of free-to-air television broadcasts. TVC ensures that its subscribers can obtain access only to content which they are already legally entitled to watch in the UK by virtue of their television licence. Several British commercial television broadcasters take exception to this type of distribution of their television broadcasts. They for that reason brought proceedings against TVC before the High Court of Justice (England and Wales) for breach of their copyright in their broadcasts and films, alleging, inter alia, that there is a communication to the public that is prohibited both by national law and by Directive 2001/29.

    The High Court asked the ECJ whether such services are compatible with EU law. The Luxembourg judges first noted that TVC’s activity comes within the scope of the directive since the right of communication to the public covers any transmission or retransmission of a work to the public not present at the place where the communication originates, by wire or wireless means, including broadcasting. However, the judges noted this does not exhaust the right to authorise or prohibit other communications of those works to the public. The court accordingly found that, when a given work is put to multiple use, each transmission or retransmission of that work using a specific technical means that is different from that of the original must, as a rule, be individually authorised by its author.

    Second, the ECJ ascertained whether the protected works have in fact been communicated to a “public”. According to the ECJ’s case law, the term “public” refers to an indeterminate number of potential recipients and implies, moreover, a fairly large number of persons. The ECJ found that, in the present case, the retransmission of the works over the internet is aimed at all persons resident in the UK who have an internet connection and who claim to hold a television licence in that state. Consequently, the court held that by the retransmission in question, the protected works are indeed communicated to a public within the meaning of Directive 2001/29 even though those subscribers are within the area of reception of that terrestrial television broadcast and may lawfully receive the broadcast on a television receiver. The initial broadcasters of programmes are fully entitled to ban their retransmission via the internet.
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    Update: 13 March 2013.

    This notice appears at the top of "British channels" on filmon, which today has reinstated some of the UK TV channels. Although the message states that these channels should only be available to "their respective countries", the UK channels are currently available to people outside the UK.

    "Unfortunately due to a recent European court ruling, services such as ours havehad to restrict the viewing of certain channels to their respective countries, therefore the only UK TV channels available will be the 4 main terrestrial channels."
    The Sat and PC Guy
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