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Copyright-bothering web TV outfit rises from the grave

TVCatchup.com says it's cracked it

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TVCatchup.com, a web-based TV recording service which was shut down last year under pressure from broadcasters, has returned, and this time it assures us it's legal.

The original service allowed members to stream shows on all the main channels for up to 60 days. If a member forgot to set his account to "record" a particular show, he could ask others to "lend" him them their copy. TVCatchup.com claimed this was legal as its service was covered by the same copyright exemptions as domestic video recorders.

The BBC and other main broadcasters disagreed, and set the legal dogs on TVCatchup.com and the site was quickly withdrawn. TVcatchup.com says there was "some dialogue".

The new TVCatchup doesn't store shows, but instead offers streams of 18 channels live as they are broadcast. There's six BBC channels, four ITV channels, four from Channel 4, three from Five, and Dave. Its function is basically that of a Slingbox anyone can access for free.

According to the relaunch press release, the new site will target commuters and those unable to receive Freeview. The 18 channels are offered as Flash streams, so are compatible with many mobile devices.

TVCatchup says it has expert legal opinion this time that it complies with section 73 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which allows retransmission of broadcasts by a "cable programme service".

TVCatchup claims heavyweight legal opinion is on its side in the form of Robert Englehart QC, a top media and entertainment barrister.

Mike Parsons, TVCatchup's spokesman declined to give an interview, but said via email: "As far as I am aware, nobody from TVCatchup has ever suggested that the broadcasters 'set their lawyers' on us. There was some dialogue prompted by a misleading press report [in The Guardian], culminating in the broadcasters themselves participating in a closed trial of the website prior to its public relaunch. During this time they were unable to identify any cause for specific concern."

Like the BBC's own streams, TVCatchup's services is restricted to UK IP addresses ("at great expense", says Parsons), to avoid violating copyright licensing deals between broadcasters and producers.

Parsons said the site plans to sell pre-roll video advertising on the streams, a business even Google is struggling to make money at it with YouTube. ®

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