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Big Media and Big Telcos Getting Nasty In Landmark Australian Law Case 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the settle-this-with-a-cage-match dept.
Fluffeh writes "In Australia, we have the right to record TV and play it back at a later date; we also have the right to transcode from one format to another, so anyone with a media server can legally back up their entire DVD collection and watch it without all those annoying warnings and unskippable content — as long as we don't break encryption (please stop laughing!). Optus, Australia's second largest Telco, has been raising ire though with the new TV Now service they are offering and Big Media is having a hissy fit. The service does the recording on behalf of the customer. Seems like a no-brainer right? Let the customer do what they are allowed to legally do at home, but charge them for it. Everybody wins! Not according to Sports Broadcasters, who made this statement when Optus said they would appeal their recent loss in an Australian Court to the highest court in the land: 'They are a disgusting organization who is acting reprehensibly again and now putting more uncertainty into sports and broadcast rights going forward I'm really disappointed and disgusted in the comments of their CEO overnight.' Is this yet another case of Big Media clutching at an outdated business model, or should consumers be content with just doing their own work?"
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Big Media and Big Telcos Getting Nasty In Landmark Australian Law Case

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  • Sport? (Score:2, Funny)

    by marxz (971164)
    I've heard of that...
    that people want to to watch it, let alone record it is beyond me.

    (also two spam posts above me ... for mycleanPC... malware - they do realise their wasting their spambots posting that crud on slashdot no?
  • Broadcast rights (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <<richardprice> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:38AM (#40013723)

    Does Optus have broad enough rights in its broadcast license terms from the content producers to essentially rebroadcast content on an on-demand basis, because that is what they are essentially doing. There is a difference between the customer recording it and the telco doing it for them, as one involves rebroadcasting of the content and the other does not.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Depends on how you define broadcast I guess as you could argue that they are not broadcasting in the network sense, rather they are are uni-casting it, or streaming it for the customer much as if the customer recorded it themselves, uploaded it to a server and then streamed it to a device. You could even say that if you are using a clever file system that can recognize when the same file is stored and only saves one copy (like certain virtualization technologies do with memory) then even if multiple users

    • This seems to be a common situation in law. Goal A can be accomplished by methods B and C, which are functionally identically and have exactly the same end result, yet B is legal while C is not. Such untidyness is unavoidable at time.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        It is not that simple. The law allows small-scale mucking around at home, because it cause no damage to anyone. The thought is that as long as you do not do it on a commercial basis and disrupt the "outdated" money-for-TV business model, you do no real harm and should be allowed to do it.

        The moment you go commercial with your aroundmucking, you should follow other rules.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, because broadcasting mean sending it out (or making available) essentially to everyone. This would seem (without looking at more than the summary) to be more narrow-casting, and at that narrow-casting of a received broadcast, limited to those subscribers. Essentially, it's outsourcing the transcoding and perhaps storage of the broadcast - what would traditionally occur on a PVR, for example. I presume the output of the service is available via the 'net on mobile devices, a function typically not availab

    • by jimbirch (2621059)
      Well... that's what the legal cases have been trying to decide. The telco does NOT (re) broadcast it. It provides a remote recording service. It records a copy for each subscriber then transmits that specific copy to the subscriber who requested it. It's not that different to programming your home PVR from work, except that there is a system capable of doing it in bulk... Australian law says you can record your own copy of a broadcast program for your own replay but you can't then sell it to a third pa
      • Re:Broadcast rights (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:04AM (#40014219) Homepage

        A little slippery. The teleco can do one thing that big media fear. They can buy a licence to the content and then distribute it as long as only one person sees it at a time, they only need one licence. Of course they can use computers to slice up the original content into ten of thousands of slices and only distribute one particular slice at a time, one licence thousands of end users, technically legal.

        Overiding everything is of course ultimately the true value of that content to society is it a negative or a positive this versus the value of an open internet is it a negative or a positive. On the whole today's content is honestly pretty much a negative all about nothing but greed and PR=B$ marketing no real value at all. An open internet is of course blatantly obviously of immense value, open up politics, enriching democracy, spreading knowledge and education, driving participation rather than spectating, huge productivity and energy savings etc. etc.

        So the real decision here is whether todays politicians will sell out the future in order to have their ego's stroked by funder's of the RIA*/MPA*, revolving around sex, drugs, holidays and straight up tax haven bribes.

        • by jonwil (467024)

          This case has nothing to do with the RIAA or MPAA or slicing up content.

          What it is about is that Telstra (biggest carrier in the country) has paid millions for the rights to broadcast AFL and NRL (2 of the most popular sports in the country) on mobile and now Telstra along with the sports leagues are annoyed that people can get these sports matches from another carrier without that carrier paying for it.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      More just a codec tunnel from your sofa area box to your tablet, cell or laptop on the go. A VNC with a good codec and useful gui?
      Optus wins with branding, a monthly data rate and getting a long term lock in bundle with your home phone/adsl/optical, cell.
      It will be fun after optical rolls out and quality US codecs are used, from a US studio to your sofa via a box from Apple or MS or Sony.
      Classification will be the only time sensitive issue - it will be fun to see what the middle interests living of UK
    • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @03:27AM (#40013899) Homepage Journal
      Broadcast rights are probably neither here nor there.

      Copyright law gives me certain rights to make copies for home use. Optus is no more entitled to copy "on my behalf" than they are to vote on my behalf. Just because I can do something doesn't mean Optus can do it for me, even if the end result is roughly the same thing. The mechanism by which the end result is achieved is important because it's precisely the mechanism (ie the act of copying) that the law addresses.

      I don't understand what Optus is doing. If they win then they will have no long term competitive advantage because their competitors could then do it too. It seems to be all risk with no real reward.

      Worse still, not only are they risking themselves but they risk damaging regular people too. The law they are trying to use clearly intends to allow people reasonable rights for themselves in their own homes, not support commercial copying. If the court ultimately does somehow come down on their side (difficult to imagine but anything is possible) then it won't be long before copyright law is altered to close the loophole. Any change to the law (no doubt made with "industry input") to stop what Optus is doing might tread on peoples rights too. (Eg is the law specifically addressed transmission that might stop me legally being able to push content from my own PVR to my own phone).

      Optus is no friend of the people here, they are just trying to make a quick buck.
      • by Spad (470073)

        Optus is no more entitled to copy "on my behalf" than they are to vote on my behalf.

        Except that in the UK - and therefore probably also in Australia - you can permit someone else to vote on your behalf if you are unable to (proxy voting). Obviously, doing so removes *your* right to vote, but that bit of the law is less critical when you're talking about watching the football a couple of hours later than it was broadcast rather than electing your government.

      • by tg123 (1409503) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:13AM (#40014241)

        I don't understand what Optus is doing. If they win then they will have no long term competitive advantage because their competitors could then do it too. It seems to be all risk with no real reward.

        What Optus (big nasty Telco) is doing is getting around a monopoly on broadcasting rights that Telstra (other big nasty Telco) bought from the AFL & NRL (Australian football sports leagues) . It has the potential to save them millions in broadcasting license fees just by facilitating a service and saying "we are not doing anything illegal its the customer who wants to time-shift the broadcast". Can you imagine all the "poor" (he he) footballers not getting paid the "big bucks" if this is allowed to go through ? You have to give Optus points for "having the balls" to try it.

        • by mdragan (1166333)
          Maybe there is an important lesson to be learned here: if users shouldn't be able to sell their rights of making copies, then the copyright holder shouldn't be able to sell their monopoly rights either. Otherwise the content creators can spread unfair advantages between players in another industry that is not creating content (only distributing).
          So, a monopoly is the only way in which we can reward content creators, but is it ok if the creator can spread it in other areas of the economy where monopolies do
      • You're being extraordinarily short-sighted here when you say "If they win they will have no long term competitive advantage". That line could have been erroneously applied to countless innovative and successful businesses. More importantly when efficiency and transparency increases in any market EVERYONE gains - except the entrenched middle-men who are squeezed out of existence. So unless you're employed by a big-media dinosaur you should welcome Optus putting the cat among the pigeons.
        • So unless you're employed by a big-media dinosaur you should welcome Optus putting the cat among the pigeons.

          Bollocks, the only feasible outcome from Optus' being successful is more restrictive copyright law which is bad for everyone except the "big-media dinosaurs".

          Such law has already been drafted [smh.com.au] and was ready to roll should Optus have won the last case.

    • by jank1887 (815982)

      but, are they rebroadcasting it at all? or are they delivering it upon request to one individual? I station with an antenna broadcasts the signal to everyone capable of receiving that signal over the broadcast medium. Same with Cable, it's just a better contained medium. Oec you stop broadcasting, and you start delivering requested content, things have changed. or, at least, things should be considered to be different, whether or not they actually are in your particular jurisdiction.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's legal to hire someone else to do pretty much anything you can legally do yourself - I don't see why this would be any different.

    • by ericloewe (2129490) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @05:08AM (#40014231)

      Do you think big content cares about what's legal and what isn't?

      • by tg123 (1409503)

        Do you think big content cares about what's legal and what isn't?

        Mod Parent post up +5 Insightful This is the real issue here .

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      It's legal to hire someone else to do pretty much anything you can legally do yourself - I don't see why this would be any different.

      Can you hire someone else to vote for you or give deposition in your place at a trial?

      I'm not saying who's right and who's wrong here, but this is a bit of a grey area. IANAL but I can't recall any similar cases previously in any country.

    • As a homeowner I can take out a permit from the power company and rewire my own house. Under the conditions of the permit, I cannot hire anyone to do the work for me.

      The only legal alternative is to hire a certified electrician to do the work (in which case I don't need a permit).

    • It's legal to hire someone else to do pretty much anything you can legally do yourself

      You can give yourself a handjob [ytmnd.com], but you can't hire a hooker to do the same.

  • If Optus wants to distribute works or broadcasts then let them pay a fee to the right's holders. If Optus won't pay then don't let them rebroadcast or distribute material that they don't own. If the right's holders don't want Optus selling their broadcasts for profit then don't let them either.

    If people want to record shows or broadcasts on their own for home viewing then that is fine. No one is disputing that. It's not fine when a company is recording broadcasts that they don't own and then charging people

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Its not "basically streaming" or "distribute" from one massive telco server room to many users. If you have a tv, your just watching the media you can for free at home from another location.
      The "Your Television connects to your...via HDMI, composite video and component video cables" part makes that pretty simple to understand: its from "your" TV to "your" device.
      Recording broadcasts is time shifting to fit around busy lifestyles. Any VCR or set top box seems to have set the legal condition to do tha
  • by pbjones (315127) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @03:53AM (#40013971)

    I would be nice if the OP was objective about the situation. The issue is about who is doing the recording, and in this case it technically wasn't the user, it was found to be Optus. You can still record and view later on your own equipment, but the technical matter here is who is doing the recording, it is found to be Optus, not the user, so it may have been a bit grey but now a legal decision has been made. I don't have to agree, but that is the situation. As for 'big media' the same situation could apply to any event or broardcast.

    • by Spad (470073)

      OK, serious question then; what if the recording equipment used by Optus was leased to the customer so that they "owned" it and in effect all Optus were doing was pressing record for us because we were busy doing something else?

  • by msobkow (48369) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @04:05AM (#40014019) Homepage Journal

    We have similar rights to record, transcode, and back up media in Canada.

    The Harpercrite goobermint is trying to enact a DMCA-type clause, which violates our rights to make backups and to transcode media. The argument against the legislation is that even the use of encryption violates our rights to record and transcode data, never mind how much more of a violation it would be to make it illegal to break the encryption.

    Here's hoping both our nations can kick big media's arse once again as we have done repeatedly in the cases over the years that enshrined our existing rights.

    Not every legal system on the planet is willing to suck up to big media like the USG.

  • by GrpA (691294) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @04:55AM (#40014197)

    Does this really surprise anyone?

    You are free to do whatever you want to in this world, until such time as someone with more power than you discovers a way to make you pay for doing it.

    Now two commercial interests have discovered a way to set up the same toll gate and bridge over the same river and neither wants to give up their perceived right to all the traffic they can handle, while denying the other.

    Of course it's going to end up in a fight.

    But what is really surprising is that the people who have to cross that bridge never take a side in this matter, since theoretically it's their elected representatives who get to decide which technological bridges have monopolies and which may co-exist.

    GrpA

  • Going forward (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "Going forward" and "let me be clear" are the 100% reliable signs that some NLP-trained (pseudoscience) management drone or worse, committee, have had a hand in designing what you are reading. Never trust anything you see these phrases in.

  • by djjockey (1301073) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @07:12AM (#40014801)

    What is often overlooked in the media coverage of this issue - i haven't read the article but i assume it's no better - especially by the sporting bodies (AFL/NRL) and others is that the feed that Optus were providing this service on was a Free To Air broadcast. This creates the following situation:

    Firstly, the sports bodies (AFL in particular) have sold the TV rights for a large sum of money separately to the "internet" rights. Telstra have the sole right to transmit over the internet, and are obviously pissed off about their competition. However the Free to Air networks should be jumping at the chance to get their feed to more people - after all, the more people watching increases the value of their advertising, and in theory would increase the value of the rights they have paid.

    Secondly, with the focus on protecting the value of the internet rights alone they are missing two other opportunities - namely the chance to get non-Telstra subscribers to have access, and secondly the chance to get more people overall to watch the sport. More eyes is more advertising, more merchandise and more members - and possibly more gambling revenue too.

    Finally, I have an objection to people complaining about what happens to a FTA broadcast once it's put into the air... I don't believe people should be able to make multiple copies and sell the works, but it's already being broadcast... the method for an individual recording and viewing should not matter.

    • by mibus (26291)

      Secondly, with the focus on protecting the value of the internet rights alone they are missing two other opportunities - namely the chance to get non-Telstra subscribers to have access, and secondly the chance to get more people overall to watch the sport. More eyes is more advertising, more merchandise and more members - and possibly more gambling revenue too.

      I really doubt that anyone using Optus' service has no alternative means of watching the show later.

      I suspect the AFL's involvement is more to ensure

      • by djjockey (1301073)

        My comment was not so much about the ability to access later - more about being able to watch it when not at home. The time-shifting provision is probably a combination of a technical delay to record, transcode and then stream, along with potentially a nice legal out.

        Totally agree that it's the internet streaming $ but isn't the trade off the free to air rights are now worth more?

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