Sky TV Sues KODI Box Sellers

Sky takes legal action against sellers of ‘free TV’ boxes, but PAT PILCHER wonders if anyone’s the winner in this expensive game.

 

Sky TV have thrown down the legal gauntlet at two Kiwi businesses who are selling IPTV devices.

One firm is Hamilton-based My Box, while the other is Christchurch based FibreTV NZ. Both are facing legal action by Sky TV.

Sky’s argument is simple. They say these businesses are helping people view content that Sky has the NZ rights for.

The boxes sold by both businesses use KODI, an open source media player that was first designed to work with the original Microsoft Xbox. KODI is open source and available for free for PCs, Apple TVs and other hardware.

While KODI is completely legal, some KODI boxes also come preloaded with plugins that allow viewers to stream foreign TV and watch premium content.

Sky’s legal argument isn’t so much that KODI media players are illegal, but that the boxes sold by both businesses are pre-configured to allow people to freely watch pay-tv programmes that Sky holds the New Zealand rights for.

As robust as Sky’s legal arguments may be, the bigger issue is one of Sky creating a scenario where everyone (but the lawyers) lose.

Both businesses selling KODI boxes will have to either cease trading or fight Sky in court. Even if these businesses win a legal bun fight against Sky, their legal fees and time spent away from running their businesses could mean that both may have been better off ceasing trading.

Sky lose too. They are unlikely to see any good publicity from this. Their recent move to increase prices for FanPass saw Sky’s popularity plummet. Even If Sky does win, they’ll have spent a tonne of money.

So as usual, the only real winners from this woeful situation are lawyers.

The sad thing is that this case won’t solve anything. People will find ways to access premium content for free.

This is a technology and marketing issue rather than a legal one. From a technology perspective, TV broadcasters are struggling as IPTV makes massive in-roads into NZ lounges. Providers such as Netflix, Quickflix and Lightbox are gaining ground. It’s a lethal cocktail as affordable smart TVs and set-top boxes find their ways into Kiwi homes, many of which use high speed fibre which makes streaming video effortless.

Then there’s the outmoded legal framework which drives an outdated marketing model by Sky. With content available online, paying Sky for 50 channels you’ll never watch so you can catch a rugby or cricket game makes less sense with each passing day.

In the past Sky have played a very smart game by airing big ticket content on SOHO the same day as it aired overseas. Pirates follow the path of least resistance. It was easier for them to fork out a small monthly fee for SOHO than it was to risk running afoul of the ‘three strikes’ law.

While sky’s position is likely to be correct, technology such as KODI and plugins are becoming easier to get. Streaming big ticket content from offshore need no longer need to involve SKY. Put simply, Sky can’t sue everyone.

Now might be a good time for Sky TV to re-evaluate their business model?

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