Optus case a win for telecoms

Morris Kaplan
Morris Kaplan is a guest blogger.

Morris Kaplan, one-time stockbroker and venture capitalist, brings his finance skills and recent experience as a business journalist and writer to IT, with a special interest in telecoms and how communications is being transformed by technology.

In the cosy world of major sports sponsors, deals are often done in nine-figure sums; so when the lawyers gather to fight out some copyright issue you can be sure there is plenty of silk and fur flying in the courtrooms. In a landmark legal case that redefines some legal principles, the Federal Court has found Optus' TV Now service did not infringe the copyright by allowing users to record and later view AFL and NRL football matches on a mobile device at a later time. In a judgment anticipated by media companies and cloud providers alike, Justice Steven Rares found the service itself did not infringe copyright "in the particular ways that the rightholders alleged". Lawyers obviously had much to say but for the mug punter it comes down to this: the judge found the user - rather than Optus - made the recordings of free-to-air broadcasts when using the service. Much like a person using a video cassette recorder, digital video recorder or similar device to copy a television broadcast. Consumers are allowed to record a broadcast for later viewing of their choosing in private; which means the recording could be watched with others(meeaning frineds and familiy and not for resale orr other revenue-deriving activity) over one of the devices supported by TV Now, and still not constitute a public viewing. A win for Optus for sure and one that supports a consumer's right to record free to air television and play it back at a time that is convenient. Telstra on the other hand paid $153 million for exclusive broadcast rights for AFL matches over the internet.

Importantly, cloud providers may benefit too; given that they store and use of material they host but do not own the copyright. Whichever way the outcome is interpreted by the lawyers; it's a win for consumers and everyone who uses peer to peer and other file host methods to share data between devices.

In 2012-13 the number of tablet users (such as the iPad) will double in Australia; increasingly they are being used in business applications for the sharing of data; some of the content will be recorded from broadcasters and events. Where will the copyright lines be drawn? Perhaps the lawyers will be rubbing their hands in glee at the thought that there will be infringements of copyright when users record over their iPhones or iPads.

Tags: iPad, copyright, cloud providers

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