After relatively quiet treatment in the media, last year press in New Zealand began reporting on the booming ‘pirate’ set-top box business sweeping the world.
Often based around legal Kodi software boosted with third-party addons, the devices are known for providing free movies, TV shows, and sports.
Last November, ‘My Box NZ’ owner Krish Reddy, who said he would take on Sky in its own backyard with his custom streaming boxes, hit the headlines. The 27-year-old told NZHerald that “it seemed like a great idea so we decided to do it ourselves.”
The boxes offered some local free-to-air channels but also the all-important premium offerings from Sky, including Sky Movies and Sky Sports, an expensive proposition for an official subscriber.
“Why pay $80 minimum per month for Sky when for one payment you can have it free for good?” Reddy’s advertising said.
Reddy was confident in the abilities of his product but was also confident he wasn’t breaking the law.
“I don’t see why [Sky] would contact me but if they do contact me and … if there’s something of theirs that they feel I’ve unlawfully taken then yeah … but as it stands I don’t [have any concerns],” he told the Herald.
As things moved on, Reddy’s business really took off. He admitted to having sold 8,000 of the devices and then April this year, Sky appeared to ruh out of patience. In a letter from its lawyers, the pay TV company said Reddy’s devices breached copyright law and the Fair Trading Act. Reddy responded by calling the TV giant “a playground bully” and denied again that he was breaking the law.
“From a legal perspective, what we do is completely within the law. We advertise Sky television channels being available through our website and social media platforms as these are available via streams which you can find through My Box,” he said.
“The content is already available, I’m not going out there and bringing the content so how am I infringing the copyright… the content is already there, if someone uses the box to search for the content, that’s what it is.”
Stuff reports that the initial compensation demand from Sky against Reddy’s company My Box runs to NZD$1.4m (US$1m), an amount that could “rise by millions” by the time a judgment is reached.
“They have given us until September 24 to respond. We are not going to sit and take it,” Reddy told the publication. “How many people can say they went up against a multimillion dollar giant like Sky?”
And it seems that Reddy is absolutely determined to fight back. Earlier this year he said that his father always encouraged him as a child to seek out the big guy for a fight, something that is now playing out with one of the world’s biggest broadcasters.
“[Sky’s] point of view is they own copyright and I’m destroying the market by giving people content for free. To me it is business; I have got something that is new … that’s competition,” he said.
In Europe, where these kinds of cases have already been tested at the highest level, comments like these would be extremely ill-advised and enough to give any defending lawyer a high temperature, but Reddy really doesn’t seem to care.
In fact, a bulk email he sent out to 50,000 people advertising his product as “being better than Sky”, actually found the inboxes of 50 Sky TV staff and directors. He believes this triggered the legal action from the company.
While Reddy was on Sky’s radar long before the mailshot, the blatancy of his advertising and its targets won’t have helped his case one bit. Sky, for its part, is determined to get a ruling against a large player and Reddy seems the perfect catch.
“Anyone selling these boxes are within our sights. You have got to go after the big fish first,” said Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way.
No case like this has ever gone to court in New Zealand so it could be important for setting the ground rules on several aspects of copyright law, including the making available right.
In addition to prosecutions, Way told Stuff that it could also be possible to introduce site-blocking laws such as those already in place in Australia and the UK. These would aim to render Kodi-powered devices less effective at providing copyrighted content from unauthorized sources.