Tag: broadcast rights

The Aereo Supreme Court Test–A repeat of the Betamax case


Aereo to Broadcasters: ‘We’ll See You in (Supreme) Court’ | Mashable

My Comments

In the late 1970s, Sony had brought to the US market the Betamax video-cassette recorder which was the first device that could, for an affordable price, record TV shows. But Walt Disney and Universal City Studios filed suit against Sony citing copyright violation because they feared that consumers would create their own TV content libraries from shows recorded off-air rather than going to the movies.

This case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court who litigated that a technology company wasn’t liable for creating a technology that infringed on copyrights. It underscored the domestic video recorder not just a device for recording TV shows but a tool to “take the content further” such as hiring out videocassettes of the latest movies through the video stores which ended up as the device’s killer application.

Aereo is a cloud-driven TV-streaming / “network DVR” service which has been disrupting the established business models that the US TV networks along with the major sports leagues, especially the NFL, rely on. The TV networks and sports leagues have taken legal action against Aereo but have lost this action to Aereo through every rung of the US legal-appeal ladder. But now it is to face the final test at the US Supreme Court and I see this as being like the Betamax case in some ways especially in relation to innovation.

Australian readers have faced a similar litigation concerning a TV-streaming service offered here due to the main football leagues having an exclusive online partnership with Telstra and both parties fearing that the partnership’s value is diluted due to a TV-streaming service offering the football sportscasts online.

For example, the ability to stream a local broadcast form a known area to wherever you are, a practice undertaken with Internet radio, is being tested. Similarly, the concept of cloud-based DVR services where you can pick shows to record and view wherever you like is also to be tested.  It will also be tested in the context of bringing material in to an area that is not meant to be shown in that area, such as a sports broadcast subjected to a “delay to the gate” rule where the sportscast is not shown live in the city it is played in unless a significant percentage of tickets are sold for that game.

Similarly, the concept of pay-TV companies offering IP-based services whether as a subscription option or add-on to a traditional subscription will be tested. This includes a cloud-based DVR service like what Cablevision is currently offering as a value-added service or simply offering the TV Everywhere service to view TV on your smartphone or tablet as what most cable-TV services are offering the US market.

Let’s hope that this case can shape on-line TV services for the good of the consumer rather than studios and sports leagues setting up environments to exploit the viewing public.

Online rights for sports and cultural events–what could be done?

After hearing the latest furore about Optus delivering delayed broadcasts of the AFL and NRL football matches to their mobile subscribers, I have thought that something needs to be done concerning how online and mobile rights for sporting and cultural events are worked out.

Typically the online and mobile rights for these events are bought by ISPs or mobile carriers for exclusive distribution to their subscribers. This has become a thorn in the side of sports and cultural bodies, existing radio / TV broadcasters and similar groups due to various limitations that could exist.

For example, most radio stations run an Internet-hosted simulcast of their regular broadcast and this has extended radio to the iPhone and popularised the Internet radios such as the ones I have reviewed on this site. What has happened lately is that radio stations that call AFL or NRL football matches using their own talent have had to run alternate programming on their Internet feeds so as to placate Telstra who have exclusive rights to these matches.

Similarly, Optus running a broadcast-IP setup and cloud-recording arrangement to deliver the football to their subscribers has ruffled Telstra’s and the football leagues’ feathers.

This can cause issues not just with ISPs and mobile providers but can affect companies who deliver any form of IPTV services which is a growing trend with the arrival of next-generation broadband services. It could even extend to usage environments such as hotels and apartment blocks implementing “broadcast-IP” tuners to deliver broadcast content from a rooftop aerial to the building’s LAN with Internet-enabled radio / TV equipment connected to the network showing or playing the content.

What needs to be looked at for defining online rights to a sporting or cultural event is whether the online use is simply a verbatim use of an existing radio or television broadcast or data available on the scoreboard; or whether it is an extended mixed-media interactive use of the content. The “verbatim use” would be something like diffusing broadcasts from a broadccast-IP tuner to a broadcaster simulcasting an audio or video feed of the broadcast to the Internet and providing a user-interface just to gain access to that stream. It can also encompass someone who writes a mobile scoreboard app with their own interface.

This is compared to an enhanced online service with extra data on the game being provided alongside the broadcast of that game, such as on-demand video, a Web scoreboard or a highly-strung scoreboard app with the leagues’ logos.

Here online / mobile rights could be split in to two categories – a default simulcast rights for existing broadcasters which requires verbatim use of the sportscast including all commercial and continuity material normally broadcast; and an enhanced online right for online providers who buy that right. The latter right should then enable access to the content by users associated with competing Internet and mobile providers under the same terms as the rights-holder’s subscribers. There could also be a raw-data right for people who prepare their own data applications like sports-magazine Websites and online scoreboard apps.

For the league or cultural-event organiser, they could be in a position to sell multiple online rights classes or choose to offer “verbatim-use” (simulcast) rights to existing rights-holders as a way of bolstering broadcast-rights packages/ As well, private-network use of broadcast material, including time-shifted copies, should be qualified as a standard fair-use right for users of that network such as a household or a hotel’s employees and guests.

What needs to happen is a common sense of “working out” broadcast rights for live sporting and cultural events so that uses commensurate with broadcasting are protected yet the organiser can sell advanced-interactive use rights to online and mobile providers.