Channel 4 Asks UK Government To Outlaw Online Re-Transmission

Broadcaster Channel 4 is asking the UK government to rewrite the law so that online services would be barred from re-transmitting TV channels without a paid license.

Some independent online services like Zattoo and TVCatchup have argued that Sections 73 and 73A of the UK Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988, which allowed “cable” operators to re-transmit channels, also lets online operators re-air the channels, on which many such services place their own advertising.

In Channel 4’s submission to the UK government’s Review of Intellectual Property & Growth, it says…

“Channel 4 would welcome a review of the section 73 exemption (1988 Copyright Act) for cable retransmission. This was the subject of some review in the Government’s June 2009 Digital Britain report.

“Channel 4 considers that there is a strong case for reviewing the relevance of this provision given (i) the introduction of “must offer” obligation pursuant to the Communications Act 2003 (Commencement No. 4) Order, dated 27 July 2009 which means that Channel 4 is now required to offer the Channel 4 service to platforms with a significant number of end users; and (ii) public service broadcaster concerns that non cable platforms are exploiting Section 73 as the basis for retransmitting public service broadcasters’ services without paying a copyright fee.

These IPTV services undermine public service broadcasters’ legitimate online services and impact on revenues, as they also insert their own advertising around the programmes. Channel 4 believes that Section 73 shoshould be reviewed to sustain public service broadcasters’ investment in content.”

Swiss-based IPTV app Zattoo had publicly argued a Section 73 defence for re-airing UK TV channels, but caved last year and yanked the channels.

ITV (LSE: ITV), Channel 4 and Channel 5 are currently taking TV streamer TVCatchup to court for re-airing their channels, though TVCatchup says Section 73 is not the basis of its defence, according to Out-Law.

The 2009 addition to the Communications Act appears to replicate or supersede the Copyright Act’s similar provision, stating…

“The channel … is at all times offered as available (subject to the need to agree terms) to be broadcast or distributed by means of every appropriate network”, whereby “‘appropriate network’ means an electronic communications network by means of which public electronic communications services are provided that are used by a significant number of end-users as their principal means of receiving television programmes.”