Court backs TV company’s bid to block illicit set-top box streaming

Federal Court grants Television Broadcasts Limited’s application to block online services linked to seven Android set-top boxes

A Hong Kong broadcaster has been successful in its application for a site-blocking injunction that is intended to block illicit set-top box streaming.

Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) in December last year launched legal action seeking to have major Australian ISPs block a range of domains employed by seven Android-based set-top boxes: A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

In addition to online locations that help provide the IP addresses of streaming services, authentication and program guide functionality, and software updates, the injunction targets sites that provide app store-style functions for the set-top boxes.

The set-top boxes relied on proprietary apps to stream TVB content; the proprietary app store services used by the boxes appear to offer both the apps used to stream the broadcaster’s content as well as other Android apps not linked to copyright infringement.

In his ruling, Justice Nicholas noted that evidence before the court “shows that blocking access to the facilitating applications would have no impact on the ability of a user of the streaming device to install or use the Google Play App or other applications made available at the Google Play Store”.

During its application, TVB was  forced to address the uncertain copyright status of some of the material it relied on.

“It is important to note that whilst Hong Kong China, is a member of the World Trade Organisation, it is not a party to the Rome Convention,” Justice Nicholas noted. “Consequently, the applicants do not rely on copyright in TVB’s television broadcasts per se and rely instead on their copyright in pre-recorded television programs that are included in those broadcasts.”

“I accept that access to some of content that was originally broadcast (ie. which was not pre-recorded) in which copyright does not subsist may also be blocked, but my strong impression from the evidence is that this is likely to constitute a relatively small proportion of the total content the subject of TVB’s television broadcasts in Hong Kong,” the judge wrote.

“This is not a case, in my view, where blocking orders, if made, will significantly curtail non-infringing use of the streaming devices.”

Vocus, Telstra, TPG and Optus, and the companies’ subsidiaries, have two weeks to block their customers from accessing the 25 online locations that were listed in the TVB application.

The ruling, handed down yesterday, was the second site-blocking injunction targeting set-top boxes. In April Roadshow was successful in its application to have ISPs block online locations associated with the HDSubs+ Android streaming app and service.

Currently before the Federal Court is a site-blocking application from a coalition of entertainment companies. The companies have applied for the widest-ranging site-blocking injunction so far, targeting 77 online locations. 

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Tags copyrightpiracyVillage Roadshowcopyright infringementRoadshow Filmssite blocking lawsTelevision Broadcasts Limited (TVB)

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