Updated: BBC, C4, Five Going After TV Streamers; Zattoo Removes Streams

The legality of services like Zattoo and TVCatchUp, which re-stream public-service TV channels via what they say is a provision in copyright law, has long been a hornet’s nest waiting to be stirred.

Now the BBC has yanked its channels from Zattoo, and is ready to go after more third-party services…

— “We took them down and they will remain down and we will link to the iPlayer instead,” CEO Beat Knecht told paidContent:UK. “This is to comply with a request of theirs; and it frees us to launch a web presence next to the downloadable player and also support additional devices.” Unclear if this refers to iPlayer’s live – or only VOD – programming.

— The BBC tells us: “The BBC has not authorised the streaming of BBC channels through Zattoo, and we’re pleased that they have ceased their unauthorised retransmissions. All our TV channels can be streamed live online through the BBC iPlayer.”

The UK has never been a core country for Switzerland-based Zattoo. Its UK country manager left with another colleague last summer, since when operations have been handled from Zurich.

The company has several formal carriage relationships with channels, but is re-transmitting UK public service channels because it says it’s considered a qualifying service under section 73 of the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act. To our knowledge, no-one’s submitted a court challenge testing that claim, but regardless, it’s likely its practice of inserting ads in the stream when viewers change channels didn’t go down too well at the BBC.

Channel 4 is also taking an interest: “Channel 4 is aware of Zattoo, which does not have consent to carry the Channel 4 service,” a spokesperson tells paidContent:UK. “Channel 4, like the BBC and other broadcasters, takes the issue of online TV streaming sites using our content without consent very seriously and we are actively pursuing a number of these sites. We will continue to monitor Zattoo and we reserve the right to pursue any site, including Zattoo, which we believe to be infringing our copyright or using our content in an unlicensed, illegal capacity.