Many Internet users across the world are bypassing country-based restrictions by using unofficial websites or VPN/proxy services to stream the 2012 Olympic Games. Supersport warned that this practice is illegal.
SuperSport previously explained that they have exclusive Internet rights in South Africa for the 2012 Olympic Games, which is why the official IOC YouTube Olympics channel is not supported in South Africa.
“SuperSport.com is streaming all four of our Olympic channels live so that subscribers have access to the live action wherever they happen to be,” said SuperSport Communications Manager Clinton van der Berg.
Curiously, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) told MyBroadband that they are working with their rights-holder and partner, SABC in South Africa. “SABC acquired the Olympic rights across all platforms, including internet,” said Sandrine Tonge, Media Relations Manager.
Pria Chetty, Head: PwC Technology Legal Advisory, said that the legal position on streaming Olympic games content is no different to streaming any other sports or entertainment content.
“The content is subject to broadcast (licence) rights and copyright. Sophisticated licences establish who is entitled to distribute and access the content and the terms of distribution and access. Limitations are placed in licences, for instance, on the media formats, channels, territories (for distribution),” said Chetty.
Chetty highlighted that it is very difficult to enforce these licensing rights because of the numerous devices and applications that destruct rights enforcement technologies. “Less sophisticated methods of obtaining access in unauthorised territories such as fake IP addresses also contribute to a wealth of unauthorised but readily available content and a user utopia,” said Chetty.
David Luyt, a candidate attorney at Michalsons, said that whether it is illegal to watch steamed video of the Olympics in South Africa depends on the agreement between Supersport and the Olympic organizers.
“South Africa is bound to respect the copyright of IP holders in other UN countries in terms of the TRIPS agreement as given effect to by our Copyright Act,” said Luyt.
“Therefore, the Olympic organizers have the right as the author of a cinematographic film to grant Supersport an exclusive or non-exclusive right to distribute it in South Africa. By watching a video streamed by another organization into South Africa, it could be argued that you are breaching the Olympic organizers’ copyright.”
Your risk of using unauthorized content
The issue of unauthorized streaming raises the question whether the users of unauthorised content are risking liability. Hence, can the user be deterred from streaming unauthorised Olympic games content?
Chetty explains that all unauthorised access and use of copyright material is a violation of the content owners copyright.
“The copyright owner or broadcast licence rights holder would be entitled to sue for damages and harm caused by the violation of the right. The claim can, as other cases reveal, be attached to each instance of violation or each act of streaming,” said Chetty.
However, there is a challenge – how do we quantify the harm to BBC stemming from the user’s streaming?
“It is arguably on this basis that the BBC may pursue claims against the P2P site rather than the user. The boardroom discussions at the BBC are likely to be about ensuring that they have a presence on each channel, that the BBC is the preferred option in such channel through value added services or that the BBC enables new monetisation models for freely available internet content rather than prosecution of the users,” said Chetty.
“This being said, each user should know that a cause for legal action exists and that in as much as the ease of violation increases, so too is the sophistication in methods of detecting and prosecuting such crimes improving,” said Chetty.
Chetty pointed out that over the last 2 years, international collaboration and co-operation for detecting and prosecuting cross border “cyber” offences has been receiving significant attention with the UK and USA dedicating significant resources to bolstering capacity in this area.
“South African electronic communications legislation denotes cybercrimes and a person who intentionally accesses information without authority is guilty of an offence subject to fines and or imprisonment,” said Chetty.
“The Act also establishes jurisdiction for SA courts where the offence is committed in the Republic or by a South African. One of 2 realities will emerge, the content wars will dictate business models where the users choice will achieve new ascendancy or, the failure to deter cyber offences will be treated and the user utopia we know today will be a fiction and legacy of premature digital content regulation.”