Anti-Piracy Group Threatens To Sue ISPs Over TV Show ‘Piracy’

CIAPC, the anti-piracy group that has successfully forced ISPs in Finland to block The Pirate Bay, has threatened to sue the ISPs themselves over alleged TV show piracy. Local ISPs such as Elisa and TeliaSonera offer cloud services where their customers can store TV shows for later viewing over the Internet. CIAPC says the services fall outside the scope of private copying "fair use" and therefore require a license to operate legally. The ISPs are ignoring demands to shut down the services and now face legal action.

For decades TV companies lived in the moment, transmitting TV shows at a certain time and date and expecting their customers to adapt to their predetermined schedules. Be around when the show airs, be around for the repeat, or miss it forever, the business model used to dictate.

Technologies such as VHS and more recently home hard disc recorders went some way to bridging the accessibility gap but these days customers increasingly want everything “on demand”, at a time and place of their choosing, not one dictated by a TV company.

To fill this gap in the market, some ISPs such as Elisa and TeliaSonera in Finland are offering their subscribers personal cloud storage. As a TV show is aired it is recorded to the customer’s cloud account, ready to be watched over the Internet at a more convenient time.

The ISPs and their subscribers appear to be happy with the convenience of the services but perhaps unsurprisingly they are now coming under attack from rightsholders.

CIAPC, the anti-piracy group that successfully forced ISPs such as Elisa, TeliaSonera and DNA (around 80% of the Finnish Internet market) to block The Pirate Bay, insists these services are illegal and should be shut down.

“Storage services for TV shows are currently offered by around twenty companies, including major Internet service providers such as Elisa and TeliaSonera,” CIAPC explain. “None of the companies have licenses for the services. This is significant, because the issue concerns around 100 million euros worth of commercial services.”

CIAPC say they wrote to the companies advising them that their services breach copyright law and ordering them to be shut down, but thus far the warnings have gone unheeded. So this week CIAPC reiterated their threats that if the services remain operational, legal action will follow.

“None of the service providers has complied with the requirement of the ban. It appears that a legal solution needs to be considered,” says CIAPC managing director Antti Kotilainen.

The timing of the threats appears to be linked to an announcement last week that the operators of TVkaista, a company offering similar services, had been charged for illegally offering the content of several TV companies without permission.

TVkaista’s CEO and technical director are accused of copyright and intellectual property offenses plus aggravated fraud. The company’s legal adviser is charged with criminal copyright offenses and copyright fraud.

The accused all protest their innocence. They insist that their service is legal under current law which grants their customers a fair use exception for private copying of TV shows for personal use.

The service offered by TVkaista is, however, slightly different to that being offered by Elisa and TeliaSonera. TVkaista records all programs and stores them for a few weeks whether customers ask for them or not. The other services only record TV shows on demand.

CIAPC say that the Copyright Act only permits users to save content such as TV shows, movies and music locally within the home, and these cloud services don’t fit that description.

None of the ISPs are expected to give in without a fight.

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