Sky vs Reven

April 7th, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I was a big champion of how TVNZ should make their free to air channels viewable on Sky boxes. It took a while, but you can now get TVNZ6 and 7 on Sky, which is great.

Sadly Sky do not seem to be reciprocating in the spirit of open access to the episode programme guide for their own channels.

Over at Geekzone Reven explains:

i just receieved a take down order from sky.

was wondering if anyone has any legal expertise?

not sure how much of a case they have, since
- i dont host any epg data
- sky isnt even used as a source for xmltvnz

What this is about is the application designed by Reven reads programme guide data from TV websites, so that users of home theatre PC’s can have an electronic tv guides built in to their systems.

If people want to use their own PCs as an electronic TV guide they should be able to.

In the US and Australia, courts have ruled EPG data is in the public domain. But the small guy probably can’t afford a lawsuit from Sky.

Sky produce a great product in My Sky, and great channels. But if someone wishes to subscribe to their channels, but use their own electronic EPG, they should be able to.

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24 Responses to “Sky vs Reven”

  1. PaulL (5,774 comments) says:

    In Aus we use a grabber called Shepherd.

    The advantage of Shepherd is that it is a locally installed grabber – so people write the code that pulls the data off the website, but you run it on your local machine. It self-upgrades when a new version gets released, so you don’t have version control issues when the websites change (as they always do).

    So nobody to issue a take down notice to, other than all the individual users. Most/all of whom have paid for a Foxtel license, so now you’re sending take down notices to your customers. Which isn’t wise.

    I’m pretty sure the format could easily be updated for NZ – and would then fix the problem.

    In terms of the specific legalities, in Aus I think they manage to claim prior art or some such in the data itself. So reproducing that data without permission breaches copyright, irrespective of how you acquired it.

    The main issue the cable companies seem to have is that you can use that data to record TV, and they’d rather you used their settop box rather than your own PVR. In other words, this is a competition stifling process. They would of course argue that their purchase agreements for their content require them to take steps to prevent people recording it outside the endorsed mySky boxes.

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  2. goonix (140 comments) says:

    What annoys me is that I can’t remote record ‘free’ channels as TVNZ/TV3 won’t allow Sky to include them in their online TV guide.

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  3. nate (5 comments) says:

    Why would you block access to the data that outlines what’s on? Surely this would encourage more people to watch since they know what’s on.

    Sky are clueless, and are turning some of their subscribers into the enemy which they are not.

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  4. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    PaulL is correct. Sky guard their EPG to create a monopoly for their My Sky PVR. It’s anti-competitive, and based on a last-century business model that calls for central control of media content. I had this discussion with Sky way back in 2002. I hadn’t heard of Shepherd but it sounds like a cure.

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  5. Stuart MacGregor (1 comment) says:

    The iphone app ‘orsome tv guide’ also has this problem – used to be ‘orsome’, but since sky made them stop listing their programming, it’s a bit rubbish. Seems trite, but it’s enough to make me cancel my sub with sky.

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  6. anonymouse (651 comments) says:

    This isn’t a new thing,
    Why do you think TIVO has no listings for Prime.

    I would have thought that a large corporate, (or one with at least $10 mill from T/com) would have the cajones to spend the money and get an actual precedent court case.

    There is enough international case law in similar jurisdictions esp Aus to expect the data to be judged public domain.

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  7. aardvark (417 comments) says:

    And to think that back in 1997 or so, Sky, TVNZ and TV3 were all sending me their advance listings for inclusion on the website (TVPages.co.nz) I had running then.

    It seems that they knew there was value in letting people see what programmes were on rather than trying to use that material as a revenue stream or as a tool to handicap the competition.

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  8. Fletch (5,713 comments) says:

    I have never had Sky but I do sympathize. It sucks when the average Joe comes up with something to make life easier and then gets squashed by “the man” probably because he thinks he’ll lose money.

    I was annoyed about something similar recently. A group had developed a free app called iPhone Explorer which let you plug in your iPhone (not jailbroken) and transfer data over the USB cable. Several iPhone app developers had picked up on this and made allowance for their iTunes Store apps to use the feature – apps like GoodReader, Stanza, etc. It bypassed problems with flakey wi-fi transfer and was really helpful for me, who didn’t have wi-fi at all at the time.

    Then big, bad Apple stepped in and said they weren’t allowed to because their Terms Of Service didn’t allow it. So all these app makers had to remove said service from their apps and so did the maker of iPhone Explorer.

    Personally, I can’t see the difference between transferring the same data over a USB cable or over wi-fi. Apple is one of those companies that are really tetchy about what they allow their devices to do. With any other phone you can pretty much plug in a USB cable and transfer what you like. You could almost say that Apple cripple their devices.

    It’s no wonder people turn to jailbreaking their iPhones. At least in my case I didn’t update the apps in question and can still use the USB transfer.

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  9. Tauhei Notts (1,508 comments) says:

    epg
    What on earth is epg?
    Please refrain from alphabet soup. I find it impossible to follow. And what politically correct has to do recording Sky programmes – my mind is baffled.
    BUT, and this is a big BUT; My Sky is the best money I have ever spent. It really is very good. But do not ask me about any Tv advertisements; – I do not see them!

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  10. Tauhei Notts (1,508 comments) says:

    When drinking bourbon while watching recorded programmes on My Sky I get “Pissed Very Readily”. Is that what krazykiwi means by My Sky PVR?

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  11. Fletch (5,713 comments) says:

    Tauhei, EPG is Electronic Programme Guide. It’s a listing of the programmes coming up on the Sky stations – like a TV Guide for Sky that you can see on the screen.

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  12. dime (8,742 comments) says:

    ahhhh fuck

    Dime uses this dammit.

    i dont wanna buy their shitty mysky box.

    paull – this program runs locally too.

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  13. sbiddle (4 comments) says:

    @PaulL

    xmltvnz (the application in question) does exactly what Shepherd does. The user downloads the application which then screenscrapes various websites to generate a local XMLTV file. No EPG data is hosted by Reven and it’s the local user who does all the screen scraping.

    It’s also worth noting a few other things – firstly xmltvnz does not even use the Sky website as a source for screen scraping, all this content comes from other sites. Secondly another website (epg.pvr.geek.nz) also received a similair notice. This website hosted XML files which were extracted from the EIT tables of DVB-S broadcasts and hosted onine. Files were available for the basic Freeview channels and also for Sky channels. Sky took issue with these as well.

    In Australia a similair such copyright claim was lost in court but nobody here has the funds to challenge Sky. It would be great it somebody could go into bat for the small guys here and challenge Sky. There claim of braching copyright aimed at Reven and XMLTVNZ is nothing but rubbish.

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  14. PaulL (5,774 comments) says:

    So how can they serve a takedown notice? If it isn’t relying on a website somewhere that summarises the data, there’s nothing to take down.

    Personally, I’m using myth for my recording, and I refuse to get a foxtel iQ – which is mySky in Aus. And I found some links on the interwebs that tell me in detail how to pull the encryption card out of my Foxtel box, and feed it into my computer instead. It doesn’t give you access to anything you didn’t pay for, but it does let you record in digital to your hard drive – something that I cannot do from Foxtel at the moment. Be very interesting if I can get that working…

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  15. PaulL (5,774 comments) says:

    sbiddle: interesting. So they are issuing a takedown not on the basis that you have copied their data, but on the basis that you’re distributing/allowing to be distributed a piece of software that, if someone else used it in a particular way, would allow them to get a copy of the data off a website that they could also just freely access, and that they would then presumably make personal use of.

    Are they also issuing a takedown notice against Microsoft, because they distribute a piece of software (internet explorer) that allows me to get data from websites and save it to my harddrive (through going file..save as), and that I could then use that data for my personal use?

    I might be a bit thick, but I really cannot see how their case passes even the most basic sniff test. I think the cases in Aus related to people rehosting the data – so wikis and the like where people typed in the data, and it was then available to all and sundry to download. So they were genuinely distributing data. Whereas your situation seems to be distributing software that might be used to collate data – so unless we got the DMCA when I wasn’t looking, no laws broken. (In fact, even the DMCA wouldn’t apply unless you were also breaking encryption).

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  16. sbiddle (4 comments) says:

    How can they serve a notice? And on what grounds is the notice issued? That’s the key issue here.

    The problem here is when an individual is faced with legal documents threatening action if they aren’t followed what is an individual supposed to do? Spend $$$$ on a lawyer from your own pocket or simply comply?

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  17. PaulL (5,774 comments) says:

    Write a polite letter back asking for more detail explaining what law they believe you’ve broken, and why they think there is a problem. Be open and honest, and keep seeking more info. Most organisations will at least try to explain their logic if you’re being reasonable. If it looks like they aren’t then take it down (put it onto an open source repository outside NZ first, or e-mail it to some people who might be OK to post it – like Whale for example), and post all your correspondence on the web so they can be open to ridicule. You’ll be in full compliance.

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  18. sbiddle (4 comments) says:

    If you read the full thead over at Geekzone you’ll get a much better understanding of what has, and hasn’t been done.

    As pointed out by Reven – it’s easy for others to see how stupid this is but we’re not the ones who have a letter from lawyers in front of us.

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  19. Jim (385 comments) says:

    As pointed out by Reven – it’s easy for others to see how stupid this is but we’re not the ones who have a letter from lawyers in front of us.

    This sucks. I hate it when stupidity * intimidation > sensibility. Reminds me too much of USA.

    It would be great if this sort of thing could be leveled by pitting the small resources of thousands of smart consumers against dimwits like Sky. So that Reven could say “half a million dollars from interested parties says you’re wrong, dumbass. Want to take this to court?”

    My guess would be that many corporate thugs would back down. I have called bluff on a couple of lawyer letters (which I though were simple intimidation) with nothing more than sharply written replies quoting sections of legislation – and I never heard anything further. Threatening a mob of angry consumers’ wallets would be much more powerful. Someone’s going to do the math.

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  20. dime (8,742 comments) says:

    pretty sure reven charges for his software.. maybe that is frowned upon!?

    surely he can just give it to someone else to host it in aussie?!?!?!

    i love my media centre, will suck bad if i lose the guide

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  21. PaulL (5,774 comments) says:

    Dime: yes that would probably make a difference. If he has a business model selling the software, and that software’s main purpose / documented purpose is to get this sort of info, I could understand why they might have a case.

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  22. dave2 (4 comments) says:

    Whether you charge for it or not seems to make no difference, multiple other sources of data got hit as well recently (myself included, tho I was only provided DNS resolution, along with Sky making claims that as I was providing support for it and I had the technical capability to stop it being reachable (!) then I was liable.)

    Has been standard practice for a long time for Sky, TVNZ, and CanWest to threaten legal action against people for the data or any means of obtaining it.

    Good luck to whoever takes them on. I decided I wasn’t going to fund fighting it.

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  23. Fletch (5,713 comments) says:

    I think he asks for donations for the work he does. Not sure that he actually sells it.

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  24. dime (8,742 comments) says:

    yea its a donation. dont think you can get the software without donating.

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