4 Apr 2015

TV stations legal action 'a test case'

1:45 pm on 4 April 2015

An internet consultant says any legal action against internet providers that allow customers to watch overseas TV shows which are blocked in New Zealand, would be a world first.

Internet speed

Photo: AFP

TVNZ has joined with Sky and Mediaworks in threatening legal action over the issue, and said it pays a lot of money for the rights to show the programmes.

The broadcasters have asked the internet companies, including Slingshot and Orcon, to stop offering customers access to blocked shows, saying they are breaching copyright law.

But internet policy consultant, Susan Chalmers, said it has not yet been determined whether the internet service providers are doing anything illegal, so if the matter gets to court, it will be a test case.

She said it could be argued that the internet providers are breaching copyright, or helping their customers to.

But she said there are questions over whether online content should be treated similarly to parallel import products like books, which she says are allowed in the public interest.

The chief executive of Slingshot, Mark Callender, said he was yet to read the letters sent by the broadcasters, and will make a media statement early next week.

But in the meantime, he has told Radio New Zealand that he was confident the company's service, called Global Mode, was perfectly legal.

He said media companies have made threats like this in the past, so he was not expecting anything exciting, and that they were just trying to bully smaller businesses to prevent New Zealand catching up with the rest of the world.

Orcon has not replied to us.