Saturday, February 28, 2009

News Roundup - February 2009

1. "Netflix To Offer 'Streaming Only" Plans"
Wired, 26/02/2009

2. "Hulu's Hollywood overlords force Boxee block"
Austine Modine, The Register, 19/02/2009
3. "New Zealand copyright protest blockades parliament"
Juha Saarinen, ZDNet News, 19/02/2009
4. "The Web video showdown: Content providers, cable companies and the users stuck in the middle"
Larry Dignan, ZDNet, 19/02/2009
5. "Facebook does U-turn on eternal data grab"
OUT-LAW News, 18/02/2009
6. "Software body slams Government's 'special treatment' of music industry"
OUT-LAW News, 11/02/2009
7. "Competition Commission blocks broadcasters' online shop"
OUT-LAW News, 04/02/2009
8. "Google on trial over Italian 'defamation' video"
OUT-LAW News, 04/02/2008
9. "Irish ISP Eircom in 'three strike' filesharer crackdown"
Austin Modine, The Register, 03/02/2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The "Viacom v. youtube" Situation, A History (2 of 3)

This is the second of three posts involving relevant situations. This involves a site which hosts allegedly infringing content.


In March of 2007 Viacom filed suit against Google and its subsidiary Youtube alleging that they were “deliberately building a business on a library of copyrighted video clips without permission”(1).


On the one hand, from a copyright holder’s perspective, the harm caused by this is that their right of exclusive distribution has been usurped, resulting in the loss of advertising revenue and direct sales. On the other hand, the websites that host such infringing material argue that, by such videos being available on their website, the copyright holders are getting free advertising for their products.

The most important aspect of this problem is that, in many instances the websites will be able to avoid liability for any infringing content by fitting into the “safe harbour” provisions of legislation such as the DMCA, or Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive in Europe. Essentially these provisions absolve such a website from liability if they remove infringing content as soon as they are informed of its presence by a copyright holder. The rationale behind such an exception to the copyright rules is that these websites are not in a position to monitor every single video that is uploaded. Not all copyright holders are satisfied with this, because it means that the responsibility for monitoring such activity is left to them. However, the resources of conglomerate corporations that hold copyrights, such as Disney, are so vast that this may actually be the fairest apportionment of responsibility. Despite this, companies such as Google are responding to the problem of copyright infringement using technology, such as the new “Claim Your Content” tools promised by Google.


Presently the case is at a standstill, with the most recent ruling compelling Google to disclose information about its users’ viewing habits to Viacom(2).


Youtube has the unique quality of being both good for society at large and for copyright holders, which may lead to future court decisions being decided in Youtube’s favour.




1. "Viacom vs. YouTube: Beyond Privacy"
Catherine Holohan, BusinessWeek, 3/7/2008
2. "Google, Viacom and YouTube: What's Holding Up a Settlement"
Victoria Pynchon, Settle It Now Negotiation Blog, 07/05/2008
3. "Viacom v. YouTube: the Future of Online Video Sharing and Copyrights"
Martha L. Arias, IBLS, 4/6/2007
4. "Google cites Safe Harbor, fair use in Viacom v. YouTube defense"
Eric Bangeman, Ars Technica, 1/5/2007
5. "Viacom v. YouTube The real issue is a consumer rebellion, not intellectual property"
Paul Kedrosky, Wall Street Journal, 15/3/2007
6. "Viacom v. YouTube"
Lessig Blog, 13/3/2007
7. "Viacom Files Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against YouTube and
Google Over Unauthorized Use Of The Company's Shows"
FindLaw, 13/3/2007
8. Viacom International, Inc. et al v. Youtube, Inc. et al
Justia, Relevant Documents

Monday, February 23, 2009

The "tv-links" Situation, A Recap (1 of 3)

This post is the first of three in a series that will examine some of the most important recent situations involving internet television. The goal is not to provide a deep analysis but to briefly cover the main talking points. The first situation involves tv-links.

Who was involved?

In October of 2007, David Rock, the owner of the TV-Links website was arrested under suspicion of facilitating copyright infringement(1). TV-Links acts provides links to online content such as television shows and movies, but importantly it does not host the content. It is similar to in that regard. The copyright holders' group FACT was the impetus behind the arrest.


The key issue is, similarly to, can a website that merely provides links to where allegedly infringing content exists be deemed liable for copyright infringement? Copyright holders would like that answer to be a resounding yes, however it may be more reasonable to allow websites that provide such links to avail of a safe harbour defense with a notice and take-down policy in effect.


At present there has been no activity following Rock’s release from custody and nothing has come before a court. Following the closure of, a new website sprung up. The change of server location from the Netherlands has shown the weakness of any attempts at policing the internet with certain foreign jurisdictions providing an easy escape route for all manner of questionable activity(1).


(1) Interestingly, the case has an Irish connection with one of the senior moderators of tv-links being arrested in Ireland -
(2) A recent WHOIS search shows that is registered in Panama


1. "Web Site TV Links Present Unique Legal Dilemma"
Associated Content, 8/1/2008
2. "The Good Ship TV-Links Sinks"
Digital-TV Blog, 30/10/2007
3. "Mr. Rock of Tv Less Guilty Than Google"
Associated Content, 30/10/2007
4. "British Man, David Rock, Arrested for Piracy"
Kelly Herdich, Associated Content, 29/10/2007
5. "TV-Links man: 'I'm no master criminal'"
Lucy Sherriff, The Register, 29/10/2007

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Internet Television Goes Mainstream

For those who watched the Superbowl last Sunday night, clear evidence was provided that internet television has now become mainstream.

Hulu (, the website that allows users to view episodes of favourite television shows for free (currently available only to users within the United States), announced its presence with the help of Alec Baldwin, "T.V. star". Hulu is a joint venture between NBC and Fox and the first television ad gives an indication of the importance that the new medium is going to play in the near future. It also shows a willingness of the big players in the copyright holder field to realise that a change in tactics is needed to counter the unique problems that internet television creates, by embracing change rather than by simply increasing the amount of protectionist legislation as is usually their style.

The ad that should have cost between $2.4 and 3 million, essentially ran for free on NBC.

The tagline says it all: "
Hulu: an evil plot to destroy the world. Enjoy."

For your convenience, here is a copy of the ad that ran on Superbowl Sunday.

"Hulu Unveils Evil Intentions With Super Bowl Ad"
Brad Stone, New York Times, Bits Blog (February 2, 2009)