ABC embroiled in copyright debate over iview


This article is by Charis Palmer, news editor at The Conversation. It was first published on The Conversation and is re-published here with permission.

news The ABC has found itself caught up in a copyright debate after it forced the removal of an application that enabled people to download and watch programs offered on its iview service.

The Python-iview application, which had been available for more than two years, allowed people using Android devices, or people with a slow internet connection, to download and playback later, programs offered via the ABC’s iview streaming video application. The ABC wrote to application developer Jeremy Visser last month, advising the application breached its iview terms of use, and requesting Mr Visser cease distributing the application or risk further action. The application has since been removed from Mr Visser’s website.

Systems administrator Robert Mibus yesterday wrote an open letter to the ABC, arguing the Python-iview application was no different to a VCR, Fetch TV or Tivo recording service.

“If you can do it on the box attached to your old fashioned TV, but not in the cloud, people will be arguing that’s not technology neutral,” said Bruce Arnold, lecturer in law at the University of Canberra.

The debate comes after Optus was refused leave to appeal its copyright case against Telstra, the AFL and NRL. The High Court found Optus’ TV Now service breached broadcast deals between Telstra and the football codes, despite Optus arguing its service simply allowed Optus mobile subscribers to record matches on their mobile device and play them back at their convenience. Currently there is an exception for private and domestic recording in the Copyright Act, but the ABC wrote in its letter that Python-iview breached section 101(1) of the Copyright Act by providing the means to allow users to permanently download and store ABC iview content without permission.

“When the ABC produces content from scratch it’s not going to be an issue, but licensing often ties it up and there are some underlying issues here people are just starting to come to grips with,” Mr Arnold said. He added that content middlemen, including the BBC, have become savvy in repackaging, redistributing, and reusing content, and seeking money in each instance.

With the Australian Law Reform Commission now considering amendments to the Copyright Law to address such issues, Mr Arnold said various groups would continue to make their case. “A lot of copyright law happened when a particular interest group got in and lobbied well.”

He said while it’s likely exceptions for non-commercial personal use of content would remain, people would be “squeamish” about commercial uses. “It’s conceivable that there will be calls for some sort of statutory revenue collection scheme like CAL.” The Copyright Agency (CAL) is a rights management organisation that enables the use of text and images by collecting payments for writers, visual artists and publishers.

Mr Arnold said the Australian Law Reform Commission would most likely deliver a good report when it responds to the government in November as part of the Inquiry into Copyright and the Digital Economy. “The nice thing about the ALRC is it does very good work. The sad thing about this is the government typically takes about five years to respond. By that stage the world has moved on.”

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article. Image credit: ABC

The Conversation


  1. The most significant potential harm that ABC might suffer from some software like this Python-iView app is that the BBC will get greedy and seek to extract money/concessions/higher prices in future from the ABC. As the ABC does not rely on purchases of their content, since they’re government funded, it shouldn’t be harming them. So it’s a bit frustrating to see the BBC’s concerns pushed onto the ABC like this.

    • ABC/BBC does have the ABC Shop and DVD distribution.

      If the downloads are impacting future DVD sales, then it does impact their financials.

      The keypoint is that iView was never intended to allow users to build up their own library copy of shows (legally you’re meant to buy the DVD). But an iView downloader would allow this.

      • Equally so too does my Media Center? If anything it is more. I end up with an HD or SD stream instead of a very low quality mp4 copy of the show. As it is I have recorded about 2 months worth of QI off live TV.

        I don’t see why personally recording (for personal use) shows off iView should be considered any different.

        (Just before anyone says the copy I have recoded off MCE is in any way different, yes, I have encoded stuff that I have recorded myself for viewing on my mobile phone)

        • Encoding isn’t relevant unless you look at Cablevision- or Optus v NRL-style legal precedents. The copyright act does, I think I recall, mandate that timeshifting can be fine but only where it is watched once.

          • Just found this: Time Shifting Law Fact Sheet[].

            I am disappointed in the laws as stated. It is differentiating between free to air and the internet rigidly.

            What about live internet streams? Why can’t I time-shift those? (I understand the idea behind denying “timeshifting” downloaded-videos)

    • Breach of ToS … by the end user.

      I wonder if the ToS specifies that you aren’t allowed to develop and distribute the software to download the TV shows. (could they even specify that in the ToS? After you develop it you theoretically would just stop accessing iView, the restriction of access thereof being the only thing they could reasonably do to you as punishment for the breach…)

  2. Due to the terrible speeds I get from my congested Telstra ADSL CMUX, I am unable to ever stream video, however, I can download video and watch it later.

    With this decision, the ABC is encouraging me to torrent programs, rather than allowing me to download programs off iview.

    • Same goes for me. If I miss a program’s broadcast on ABC, it is pointless trying to watch it on iView in real time with my current ISP… and there is no alternative ISP apart from mobile broadband that serves the area where I live.

      Eventually, I hope to be using NBN’s fixed wireless service and have access to some choice in ISPs, assuming Tony A and Malcolm T don’t manage to completely nobble the rural NBN, but until then, iView downloaders are the only way I can use iView at all.

      • Jason – before stating that Libs will ‘nobble’ the NBN for rural users, read the 200+page NBN terms of service (not their marking rubbish). People in rural areas wont get any more than they have now, and pay more for it under NBN. If you’re in a ‘regional centre’ (Horhsam, Echuca, Albury, etc), you’ll get nice pretty fibre, but if you’re genuinely rural, you’ll get dialup and satellite, just like they have now.

        As usual, what started out as ‘for all Australians’ has devolved into ‘what satisfies the cities’. Rural are once again screwed under NBN.

  3. The way the laws have been rewritten in most things by these Lobby Groups, yes, you heard me correctly, we allowed them to, we all break the law in nearly everything we do in our lives. Handy tool to have to get rid of dissenter trouble makers in your midst.

    We are the Law; well we are supposed to be in a Democracy. The people place other volunteers to represent them in a Community Governing of a “supposedly” happy Society. The Laws are supposed to represent who we are and what we agree to govern our Society by. You remember that do you not?

    But here, right now, we have the Courts and the Politicians decreeing they have made a choice for us, we may not like, but, you know, you will continue to let us tell you how we decide you will live and enjoy your existence. It will be by the rules “they”, you know those Lobby Groups, asked us to bestow onto you, the Electorate of Australia, like this situation.
    How kind of them! You know why it’s kind? Because we the Australian Electorate are too dumb to realise we are responsible for having these Clown’s do us over with all this crap.

    Happy Copy-Write everyone! It’s an incredibly spoilt child you have let rule you and it is my fault, your fault, it is every Voter in Australia fault. Yes, you are to blame for what is upsetting you.

    Do something about all the things you have ignored too long. You choose your destiny and not some Foreign Country. If our so called Representatives don’t fix it, someone else most probably will if we let them. If not, sorry, hate to say it, you will. A Democracy was never said to be easy.

    Offended? You should be. I am.

      • LOL!
        But unfortunately we cannot sing our way out of this mess we created. Cry is more like it. What makes it worse if we do nothing, it will get worse. Sorry, it still stands, Democracy was never said to be easy. Maybe Chaser could do a song on that? No matter what the solution they came up with couldn’t be much worse. Oh!….Dear!……I take that back. It could be worse. LOL

  4. Now the ABC have succeeded in banning it and bringing attention to the product, cue the Streisand effect*

    4th hit from google pointed me to github, source hasnt been changed in 4 months, perhaps this will help the project attract some more developers.

    I wonder if this action was totally a deciision by ABC managment, or if content developers forced their hand.


    • I completely agree. Before today, I had not found an easy way to D/L streams from iview overnight (during the off-peak period from my ISP), so iview always takes a good chunk out of the peak quota thanks to the other half’s TV viewing habits.

      Thanks to the ABC for pursuing this, I have now found python-iview (on Github)

  5. Understandable. I’m sure the ABC would hate to lose the ability to stream the shows they don’t own. And I’d certainly be annoyed if that happened.

    Not that this banning will do anything. They are now forced to take measures to close the loophole I imagine.

  6. Ah yes, copyright, the great friend of innovation.

    One wonders why anyone would bother downloading anything from Iview when the standard definition they insist on using is about as viewable fullscreen on a 27 inch monitor as Happy Days reruns on a ten year old analogue tv.

  7. Can’t say I blame them really, considering their funding is always a battle, they’d have to protect what little they make from the ABC Shops. They’d also be locked in to stop it by the BBC license…if they lost that license they’d be pretty screwed with the limited Aussie content they have.

    However, I do blame them for not allowing Jeremy to modify the code so it was basically a streaming adapter with no save function to allow Android/ Linux users to use iView the same way as everyone else. That’s just mean…

  8. One of the biggest issues for me with this is the timing. Call me cynical, but it strikes me as more than coincidental that they put out a cease and desist letter right before ABC starts streaming both the Olympics (Paralympics only?) and the new season of Doctor Who on iView.

  9. That’s unfortunate. Luckily I’ve been using ‘iViewNapper’ for years (also on GitHub) which still downloads perfectly. There’s often ABC content I want to watch, but know I won’t get around to within the 14 day period. That’s the only reason I use it. Its not a serious pirating tool as iView’s picture quality is not even half that of standard definition.

  10. I have a generally bad connection – depending upon the ISP I am about to sack, so I wrote to the ABC asking that they enable the down loading of the shows so that people can watch the complete say one hour program on their PC, instead of it taking 3 – 5 hours in 20 second bursts, with 60 – 100 second pauses.

    So this is my idea.

    And the BBC – they are a bunch of fucking wankers.

    They put up a clip from Little Britian, of Andy and Lou in the park feeding the ducks, the nearby kids give Andy shit and call him “‘Oi! Oi, Ironside. Oi! Oi, Davros'”, so he gets up out of the wheel chair and goes and beats them up… then comes back to the wheel chair, while Lou is feeding the ducks.

    But they put up this clip in SUCH a tiny, pixellated video – like 8 bit video almost, and the sound was so stripped in the compression – it was a postage stamp sized vid – with tinny sound.

    So I wanted to share this and send it to my friends – a bit of free PR – some delights for fans of the show…

    As the video was snudge quality – compressed by a fucking tool – I asked the to repost it and raise the video and audio up to the acceptable standard.

    The fucking morons replied “The fuckwit says No – Copyright Issues”

    These fucking morons even pull the same crap with the same clip on Youtube:

    “This video contains content from BBC Worldwide, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.
    Sorry about that.”

    Fuck them – hire the video for $2 overnight and invite 200 of your friends to come watch it.

  11. What a load of absolute toss.

    Anyone can capture and download a stream anyway. The engineering adage is a simple matter of science and NOT optional: if you can read it, you can store it.

    And the streaming quality is so low why would anyone keep it for any length of time?

    This whole vested-interest Copyright debacle and debate has to come to an END.

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