Japanese Court Says That Place Shifting TV Overseas Is Infringing

from the ah,-modern-technology dept

As you follow the copyright world, you quickly learn how quickly modern technology obsoletes copyright law. For example, when VCRs first came out, the industry thought it was infringing, but courts finally realized that the benefits to such things outweighed the potential costs, and declared that such time shifting was not, in fact, infringement. A similar debate was had when DVRs hit the market. Similar to the debate over time shifting, was the debate over place shifting, with things like Sling box, that allow you to transfer your TV programming away from your TV to a computer or some other device.

Over in Japan they're dealing with this same issue, where Japan's Supreme Court has decided that place shifting Japanese TV shows overseas is infringing (via Public Knowledge). It doesn't sound like this service was sending "pirated" copies -- but instead, had just set up a remote Slingbox-like operation, that would allow someone from overseas to tap into a legit television account. I can understand why a literal reading of copyright law might suggest this is infringement, but it seems like a common sense reading would make you question how that makes sense.

And that's kind of the point in all of these discussions. Copyright law was designed for a different world, and these days, most of what it seems to do is hold back what the technology enables -- especially when that technology is more efficient and useful. Letting people overseas pay to access content that is legally being broadcast simply shouldn't be infringing, but copyright law doesn't deal well with such situations, unless you finally get judges (such as in the Sony Betamax case in the US) who realize that such an end-result is nonsensical. So, in the end, it's left up to the whims of judges to determine whether or not useful technology is even allowed to exist, and that's not exactly a good recipe for innovation.

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    Richard (profile), 24 Jan 2011 @ 6:48am


    rather a service that sends it to people even if they are not in position to have ever received the programs over the air or via cable directly.

    It wasn't totally clear from the article that this is correct. However, even if it is it does rather depend on the business model of the channels in question. If it is free-to-air advertising funded then it is not clear why they should object. If it was pay-per-view then it is clearly an infringing distribution that the original broadcaster has justification in objecting to (I'll not use you emotive words).
    However - since most of the people who would want this service are probably Japanese who are temporarily overseas and don't want to miss their regular programmes I would have thought that doing some kind of deal would be infinitely preferable to suing.

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