Hundreds – perhaps thousands – of companies and individuals around the globe provide IPTV services to the public.
It’s a rapidly expanding market but a significant number of providers operate without appropriate licensing, in some cases offering many thousands of channels to subscribers for extremely low monthly fees.
As a result, some of these services attract the attention of rightsholders, who target them with legal action for damages or, in many cases, blocking by Internet service providers to render their platforms less accessible to the public.
In Australia, a new action filed in the Federal Court by TV distributor International Media Distribution (IMD) targets Reelplay, an IPTV provider that specializes in Italian, Greek, and Arabic programming.
IMD says it’s “the leading aggregator and marketer of niche television services to various ethnic communities around the globe,” with the distribution rights for over 40 premium Arabic and Italian channels.
The company is registered in Luxembourg but has its marketing office headquartered in New York, where a local agent provides customer services under Reach Media. IMD claims to be the single largest provider of ethnic channels to US-based multi-billion dollar TV distributor, Dish Network.
According to court documents obtained by ComputerWorld and shared with TorrentFreak, IMD is joined in the case by two other applicants – Netherlands-based distributor Overlook Management BV and Lebanon-based pan-Arab TV station Al Jadeed (previously NewTV).
Together the applicants claim that Reelplay (which sells its Arabic package for US$150, complete with a ‘free’ Android-based hardware player) offers 15 TV channels for which they are the exclusive licensee. The channels include Al Arabiya, MTV Lebanon, and BBC Arabic. Al Jadeed (the third applicant) is listed as a copyright holder licensing its channel content to IMD.
The applicants claim that Reelplay’s IPTV service infringes their exclusive licenses in Australia so are now asking the Federal Court for an injunction under the Copyright Act to compel local ISPs to block the platform along with various ancillary services, all referred to as “online locations”.
“Without the license or other permission of the Applicants, the owners or operators of the Target Online Locations infringe, or facilitate infringement of, the copyright subsisting in the Applicants’ Copyright Broadcasts by facilitating users of the Infringing Application on the Reel Play Device to access Streaming Locations that, without license or other permission of the Applicants communicate the Applicants’ Copyright Broadcasts to Reel Play Device users…,” the application reads.
Describing the operators of Reelplay as demonstrating “a flagrant disregard for copyright”, the applicants state that disabling access to the “online locations” associated with the service (which include software update servers, an EPG, actual streams of infringing content, and a sales/registration portal) is both proportionate and in the public interest.
Reelplay says it offers a “best-in-class user experience” powered by a “proprietary streaming system, which we built from the ground up.” It also claims extensive logging of subscriber information and activities.
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In addition to harvesting IP addresses and WiFi details, Reelplay claims to store users’ search histories (including any voice-activated searches), search results, any advertising viewed, plus channel viewing history including times and duration of reception.
Perhaps of most interest to the applicants in the case, however, Reelplay suggests it has no licenses for the content offered within its subscription package.
“Reelplay [is] not responsible for the content and do not guarantee nor claim any rights to the content. Reelplay devices provide streams of all the channels as they are available on the internet,” its documentation reads.
If granted by the Federal Court, an injunction would require ISP groups Telstra, Optus, Vocus, TPG, VHA, plus subsidiaries (52 providers total) to block the ‘online locations’ listed in the table above.
While such cases have the potential to become complicated, the Court has previously shown to be thorough, with rightsholders not automatically given an easy ride.
However, under the recently enhanced Section 115a of Australia’s Copyright Act the process is now a familiar one and if the operators of Reelplay fail to defend (or produce licensing), an injunction will be the most likely result.
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