Streaming TV rift heads to court in New Zealand

Media companies contend that skirting regional restrictions on content violates copyright

Four New Zealand media companies filed legal proceedings Monday to prevent use of a service that lets people in the country view online entertainment content normally blocked there.

Sky Network Television, Television New Zealand, Lightbox New Zealand and MediaWorks TV contend that Global Mode, an application developed by Bypass Network Services for ISPs, allows users to infringe copyright.

The companies have asked for an expedited hearing in Auckland's High Court "to provide certainty on the issue as quickly as possible," according to a statement.

Global Mode uses a network of proxy servers that resolve DNS (Domain Name System) queries in a way that makes it appear a person is in a country where content is authorized to play. It allows people to skirt around geoblocking, or the restriction of playback based on a device's IP address.

Last week, two small ISPs decided to withdraw offering Global Mode after receiving a letter threatening legal action by the media companies' law firm.

But CallPlus, which owns ISPs Slingshot, Orcon and Flip, has said it believes Global Mode is legal and would continue to offer it.

The media companies have argued Global Mode provides access to content that is not licensed for distribution in New Zealand, thereby violating copyright. Global Mode circumvents legitimate "technological protection measures," according to a letter sent to Bypass Network Services on Friday.

Bypass Network Services said on Monday it had not yet sought legal advice but welcomed the possibility of a court ruling on the legal issues involved.

Many of the popular services accessed, such as Hulu and the BBC's iPlayer, have terms of service that prohibit the use of services such as Global Mode and VPNs (virtual private networks). The companies, however, have not yet taken technical steps to try to lock out people using those services.

Copyright experts have said the use of unblocking services is a gray area that hasn't been tested in court. In neighboring Australia, the services are thought to be legal. In New Zealand, the law does not specifically prevent their use, but some parts of copyright law could be used to argue it is illegal.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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Tags callplusSky TelevisionLightboxmediaworksintellectual propertycopyrightTV New ZealandlegalBypass Network Services

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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