A geo-blocking lawsuit?

The Herald reports:

Entertainment and television players Spark, MediaWorks, SKY and TVNZ have fired a warning shot to Slingshot, Orcon and Bypass Network Services, saying they are breaching and operating outside the law by providing customers access to otherwise blocked international TV and movie services.

In a joint statement issued today, the four companies say they have sent the two telcos and others requests to cease the operation of “Global Mode” or similar services that get around the blocks stopping people in New Zealand accessing certain services. …

Slingshot’s Global Mode, for instance, has long allowed New Zealanders access to the US-version of Netflix, which only launched here last month.

The country’s biggest media players and Spark’s Lightbox television streaming service said “companies who set out to profit by marketing and providing access to content they haven’t paid for are operating outside the law and in breach of copyright.”

“We pay considerable amounts of money for content rights, particularly exclusive content rights. These rights are being knowingly and illegally impinged which is a significant issue that may ultimately need to be resolved in court in order to provide future clarity for all parties involved,” the four companies said.

I have some sympathy for the media companies. They have paid for the exclusive rights to content for NZ, and of course they will not like people accessing that content through companies in other countries.

However it is far from clear that giving people a work around is illegal. It would be a fascinating court case, if one occurs.

The problem for the media companies also is that even if your ISP doesn’t help you get around geo-blocking, individuals can do it very easily themselves. The Hola plugin for Chrome allows me to appear to be from any country in the world – and even better different countries for different sites. And it is free and takes 30 seconds to install.

Ultimately business models based on artificial separation of content rights by country, will not work in a global Internet world. The future will be selling content rights to global companies, who will sell in all countries.

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