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Oz court blows away cloud PVRs

Carriers don’t have same copying and time shifting rights as individuals

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Australia’s Federal Court has decided that personal video recorders in the cloud violate (PVRs) sporting groups’ copyright.

The decision came in a case that saw Australia’s Rugby League sue telco Optus over its Tv Now service. TV Now allows subscribers to record television programs and then stream them to their mobile devices or PCs. Optus promoted the service as a fine way to catch up with Australian Rules or Rugby League matches, despite the fact that rival telco Telstra had paid tens of millions of dollars for the exclusive rights to show the sports online.

The court’s ruling is notable because it decided that Optus, as a company, does not enjoy the same rights that individuals enjoy under Australia’s Copyright Act. The Act makes it plain that Australians can record and time-shift programs for “private and domestic” use. A cloud PVR, the court argued, means that Optus made the recording, not the individual.

The Rugby League and Australian Football League have both hailed the decision as jolly sensible, which they would as fees from rights-holders make up a decent slab of their income. Telstra likes the judgement too, for two reasons. One is that as the online rights holder it has not blown its dough. The second is that it owns a third of Australia’s only pay television operator, Foxtel, which itself pays many millions for sporting broadcast rights. Those rights now look like a good buy, given that TV Now has been declared illegal.

If you want more detail on the case, The Register's Australian team explained it more detail here and analysed it here for antipodean readers.

The decision is the second landmark copyright decision from Australia in a week, after the High Court last Friday decided internet service provider iiNet could not be held responsible for copyright infringements by its customers. ®

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