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In New Zealand, a Legal Battle Looms Over Streaming TV 106

SpacemanukBEJY.53u writes After a threat from a law firm, two New Zealand ISPs have withdrawn services that let their customers navigate to content sites outside the country that world normally be geo-blocked. Using VPNs or other services to access content restricted by region isn't specifically outlawed in either New Zealand or in neighboring Australia, but it appears the entertainment industry is prepared to go to court to try and argue that such services can violate copyright law. Intellectual property experts said the situation in New Zealand, if it goes to court, could result in the first test case over the legality of skirting regional restrictions.
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In New Zealand, a Legal Battle Looms Over Streaming TV

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  • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:01PM (#49471707)
    With ISPs now considered utilities, the path to similar restrictions is shorter and easier.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Given they're run by the same media companies, there's no possible way of shortening the path.

    • the new offense is "using the internet."

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      With ISPs now considered utilities,

      In Australia ISP's have always been considered utilities.

      As such, it is not the responsibility of the ISP to police what you do, nor interfere with what you do with its service.

      Grey import in Australia is legal, the same applies to services that use geoblocking and other methods for price discrimination. However because the Australian courts cant stop it they turn a blind eye to people circumventing it.

  • Game of Thrones (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:05PM (#49471737) Journal

    I hope all entertainment giants do this, because when people start discovering they can't get at the latest episodes of their favorite series, the sooner the political pressure will mount on governments to modify these archaic copyright laws.

    Why in the name of fuck would any fucking company want to fuck over its customers? What a sick and malignant industry the media giants have become.

    • Re:Game of Thrones (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:11PM (#49471789) Homepage

      Because, the entertainment industry has decided that it is 100% in control of who are their customers, when they are their customers, and how much they will have to pay for the privilege of being customers.

      In this case, I suspect because they've decided the people in New Zealand will get it six months later, for twice the price.

      The same as they don't want you to be able to buy a DVD elsewhere in the world and bring it into your own country and watch it.

      Of course the media industry is malignant, but they keep bribing or bullying lawmakers to stack the deck in their favor ... so much so that the copyright of multinational corporations is more firmly entrenched in the law than the rights of citizens on some topics.

      We live in a world in which the media companies have co-opted the legal system, with the help of governments who help push the agenda against the interests of their own citizens.

      If the media companies had any say in the matter, buying a CD to rip the songs to MP3 to play on your portable device would be illegal.

      Because they're assholes who somehow feel their business model is more important than property rights.

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

        If the media companies had any say in the matter, buying a CD to rip the songs to MP3 to play on your portable device would be illegal.

        If the public had any stones, they would stop buying this shit. Your life will not come to an end if you miss the latest season of Game of Thrones. The right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness does not encompass DVDs without region encoding. If you don't like the way they're selling their products don't consume them.

        I think the media is largely a bunch of obnoxious asshats and I've largely removed myself from their ecosystem. I don't subscribe to Netflix, own less than ten movies, and all of my

        • All you need to know about "entertainment companies" can be found on the beginning of any retail DVD or Blueray disc. It starts with a big "entertaining" warning about copyright infringement that can not stepped past. (Helps get you into an entertained mood...) The only way to skip this unwarranted interruption is to get a nice pirated copy of the movie.

          Everyone who has enough technical know how to plug a disc into a player knows that pirating movies is illegal and the "entertainment" companies are poundi
          • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

            I agree with you that the message is stupid and unnecessary, but in the hierarchy of annoying things in life it ranks pretty close to the bottom. I can't even recall the last time I saw it, usually I pop the DVD into the player, hit play, then situate the munchies and beverages I want close at hand for the next two hours. :)

            I guess it's hard for me to get worked up about, because I'm not much of a movie or television person. The movies I care enough about to own can be counted on two hands. Most of my t

            • The point is the decisions about how to monetize their media are made by idiots. Instead of saying "How many ways can we offer it so we get revenue?" they instead go and try to apply across the board control in any instance possible to their own detriment.
        • We don't need to stop watching their programs. We can torrent them.

      • Well sure. But they have our best interest at heart and should be free to run their ISP business without any government interference... ;)
      • This is the local media companies getting in a tiz, spreading lies through the local media saying what they're doing is stealing content and piracy and all they want to do is protect their rights and have people pay for content.

        When in actual fact, the services they want banned, referred to as Global Mode, do nothing more that get around geo-blocking. Giving New Zealanders the opportunity to pay the same price for the same content as someone in a different country. Doesn't help anyone to get content without

      • Actually, this season, the NZ pay TV provider, SKY, will simulcast Game of Thrones at the same time as the U.S. If you wait six months it is broadcast on free-to-air TV.

      • "If the media companies had any say in the matter, buying a CD to rip the songs to MP3 to play on your portable device would be illegal."

        The only reason it isn't is because it doesn't have any encryption to break like DVD/Bluray discs.

      • by mikaere ( 748605 )

        Here is a post by the CEO of LightBox [], one of the companies pushing for "clarification" around the legality of "Global Mode" which sets out her position [].

        Perhaps inevitably, her position gets a hiding in the comments thread.

    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      This is all set up so they can rake over the richer countries without entirely locking themselves out of the less wealthy countries.

      In a world with region locking: "Let's charge $50 in Burgerland and Poutineville, because they'll pay it. But we also want to make some money off their neighbors to the south, who won't pay $50. (Maybe they can't, maybe it's the burned DVDs for sale on the street for $2.) But now we have to stop the people we want $50 from, from importing the $10 copies. Region locking!"

      In a wo

      • And monolingual New Zealanders aren't going to watch Game of Thrones in American just to get it cheaper?

        • by PRMan ( 959735 )
          My cousin buys all her discs from an American import store. Imported American DVDs ($50 NZ) are usually cheaper than standard NZ DVDs ($60 NZ).
          • A blueray disc in NZ is around $30
            An entire season of a TV show can get above $60 though, Game of Thrones Season 4 is $68 on Blueray, $58 on DVD. A 20 DVD set of the first 4 seasons is $134

            Sounds like you cousin is getting ripped off.

      • I live in New Zealand and am a customer of one of the ISPs involved in this.

        The thing is, the media companies seem to miss that we're now in an international community, so if the people in Burgerland realise that they can import a disk at $10, rather than pay for a local copy at $50, they're going to do that. And, trying to prevent this is going to hurt their sales. Some years back, when I visited the USA, I thought I'd pick up a couple of DVDs as they were cheaper, but in the end I didn't, because they wer

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        This is all set up so they can rake over the richer countries without entirely locking themselves out of the less wealthy countries.

        And basically this is admitting that they're deliberately ripping off more wealthy countries...

        But that's not true. A movie in Thailand costs as much as a movie in the United States... but both are cheaper than Europe who are miles cheaper than New Zealand and Australia. That explanation makes no sense when you consider reality, Thailand is much poorer than the US but Euro

    • Re:Game of Thrones (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:30PM (#49472033)

      Geographical restrictions on digital content is an anachronistic holdover from from physical markets as applied to digital markets - from back in the days you couldn't just grab any sort of media from anywhere at any time off the internet. It's amazing how ridiculously non-adaptable the media companies have proven themselves to be. If you try to restrict a region, they'll just pirate the stuff anyhow, or (naturally) use a VPN to bypass country restrictions.

      These companies need to realize that there's really only ONE digital market. If they just made it convenient and affordable for customers to get their product instead of trying to control and coerce the markets, and they'd have a lot more success in the long run. They should be using the internet's strengths to reach more customers more easily, not fighting against it. Idiots.

      • I always see the affordable part, it's very affordable in most places, people just don't want to pay for it. That's all.
        • Note that in the story people are using a VPN to bypass country restriction. If they were just torrenting the content without wishing to pay for it, they wouldn't need to worry about this.

          I could easily torrent the media content I regularly watch, but I find it a lot easier to simply subscribe to a few streaming services, most of which cost less than eight or nine dollars a month. If a service is convenient and affordable, many people will use it, for practical reasons and/or the fact that they recognize

          • by PRMan ( 959735 )
            They are paying Netflix AND a VPN provider. They are paying extra compared to the USA.
            • Yet it's still less than they would pay if they bought a Sky TV package.

              • by delt0r ( 999393 )
                Also sky is shit and even charge extra for 1080.. Its a joke. The only reason people pay for sky in NZ is sport, mostly Rugby etc. Also bittorrent works fine in NZ.
            • Unless the ISP covers the VPN part itself (which is the case here). I'm in New Zealand and have friends who do pay for a VPN and the US version of Netflix. Netflix just launched in NZ, but from what I hear, the content choice is a lot more limited. I haven't dived into subscribing to either yet because (a) the NZ version of Netflix isn't guaranteed to have what I want, and (b) the overseas version isn't guaranteed to stay accessible (I'm a customer of one of the ISPs involved in this). If you gave me a serv
            • by mjwx ( 966435 )

              They are paying Netflix AND a VPN provider. They are paying extra compared to the USA.

              You dont need a VPN. Netflix recently opened in Oz, so I got an Oz account and just use a simple Firefox extension to watch Netflix in the US as the US has many times more shows than Australia (Oz has around 1500 titles, the US has 7500 titles).

              However even with a VPN (which is what, $5 a month) it's still much cheaper than trying to get the content locally... IF you can get the content locally.

        • by gmack ( 197796 )

          6 years ago I moved from Canada to Spain. Should I have bought all new DVDs and Blu Rays when I did? And should I have bought them again when I came back last year? My favorite was the Blu Ray I bought from Amazon UK that had a US region lock so it refused to play in my Blu Ray player. The best fix? Rip it and stream it off my NAS.

          And don't even get me started on the social aspect. I spent 5 years having people send me links to movies and trailers only to discover they are region locked and getting th

      • No, you've still got the same situation.

        Australia, America and the UK are good rich countries. You can sell a series for $40 there - doesn't matter if it's via box or netflix. But China is a huge market too - and one where most people can't afford $40. You'd get hugely higher sales at a lower price, $10 or so. But if you do that, you create a situation where some enterprising individuals can go and buy the series for $10 in China, load up a shipping container, haul it to America and sell it for $20. The fre

        • by Anonymous Coward

          If it can be sold at $10, why must others buy it at $40? If it can't be sold for $10, then why is it offered at $10?

    • Re:Game of Thrones (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:34PM (#49472085)

      Good question.

      It's because the entertainment industry is in a panic. Everything's digital now, and that presents a major problem.

      Look at the population of tech-savvy people in that industry as compared to tech-savvy people not in that population.

      Computer literacy has grown exponentially, just as the Internet has, and the skill level to circumvent copyright laws and protections is minimal, especially when those of greater skills can inform the unwashed.

      The entertainment industry has long charged too much for its goods. That kind of obvious when you look at net income of these folks.

      They are going to have to bite the bullet and open the markets to legitimate commerce or give their stuff away by not dealing with reality.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sky Television NZ wants to lockout any one trying to by pass paying them for it and you have to rent our box + pay for basic package.

      • Yes, this is basically what it comes down to. One company, who have been fairly used to having a stranglehold on paid content in NZ, don't like that, and oh, there might be this scary thing called competition, so rather than adapt, they get out the lawyers. There is no legitimate reason for Sky to have a stranglehold,* so as far as I'm concerned, this just needs to get chucked out of court to make a clear demonstration that it is not ok to abuse your customers and complain when someone undercuts you.

        * I'm

    • Why in the name of fuck would any fucking company want to fuck over its customers?

      You misunderstand who the "customers" are.

      I live in Canada. Up here in America's hat, GlobalTV Canada has given NBC $X million dollars for the rights to air Saturday Night Live. In exchange, NBC has agreed to not distribute SNL up here - So most of the videos I might want to watch online are regionally blocked.

      NBC's 'customer' isn't me - It's GlobalTV Canada.

      Ditto all the other regionally blocked content here in t

      • This is just a case of adding an unnecessary middleman. If your customer's customer is the general public, then that's still where the money comes from, and they are still the ultimate customer. The reality of the modern internet-accessing world is that there is only one market. If you're dumb enough to sign a multi-million-dollar deal for something that is fundamentally unenforceable, then both parties deserve to lose money.

        Ergo, they're still abusing their customers. They still don't have a right to compl

    • Why in the name of fuck would any fucking company want to fuck over its customers? What a sick and malignant industry the media giants have become.

      Because it's the only business model that works. What choice do you have when your option is fight or die? They may be fighting a nasty fight, but really it is all they have. If they embrace the "information wants to be free" reality, then all the fat cat middle men die in the ditch. Contrary to popular myth, piracy doesn't rob artists, it only robs the people who make money off artists. Artists still create art regardless.

  • by Last_Available_Usern ( 756093 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:14PM (#49471825)
    Ban non-business VPN services? Block traffic from these services to residential users? Or better yet, allow VPN traffic to be inspected? There's no way around this problem that will satisfy the media conglomerates that isn't a complete violation of everyone's hind quarters.

    Hey big media! Not everyone is downloading your stupid TV content illegally.
    • Or better yet, allow VPN traffic to be inspected?

      Oh yeah, fucking brilliant idea .. undermine the security of corporate VPNs so that the assholes who run media companies can further tell us how we are allowed to use technology.

      I have a better idea, feed the execs from media companies and their lawyers to the bears and tell them to piss up a rope.

      These clowns won't be happy until they have veto power over all security and technology. Which, oddly enough, the assholes in the NSA and their peers want the sa

    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      FYI: The article says they aren't using VPN. They are fooling Hulu's geolocating system since it is based on DNS.

      • by agm ( 467017 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @05:44PM (#49474163)

        If they want to use some form of geoblocking they should not rely on IP address as that's not a sensible nor foolproof way to tell when an internet end-point is physically located.

        VPNs are perfectly legal. Proxy servers are legal. Using a different DNS server is legal. These things cannot be outlawed.

        If services don't want to stream content to people in NZ, why do they continue to do so? It's up to them to not do this. They complaining that they are streaming us content - then stop! It's up to them to stop doing that.

        • by jaa101 ( 627731 )

          VPNs are perfectly legal. Proxy servers are legal. Using a different DNS server is legal. These things cannot be outlawed.

          Maybe these things cannot be outlawed in the US, due to your strong constitutional rights to free speech, but they certainly could be in many other countries. Even in the US I believe there are limits on distributing ways to defeat copyright protection mechanisms. I'm not saying this is right, just that it's naïve to think this couldn't be legislated and upheld in many jurisdictions.

          • by agm ( 467017 )

            You seem to have inferred that I live in the US, I don't. Data is data, and the routing on the internet is designed to be flexible - the data can be routed through any servers. Legislating against this is to break the way the internet works.

            The issue is that content providers are sending data to people when they ask for it. That makes this he content provideds fault - they should stop sending data to people they are not allowed to.

            • by jaa101 ( 627731 )

              Yes, data are data, but I don't see how a law making it illegal for you to obtain content that has been geo-blocked would break the Internet. The law wouldn't have to talk at all about technical details and they could catch people by following the money more easily than by following the bytes. More practically, it would make it hard for service providers in the jurisdiction to offer services to work around geo-blocking, making the case that started this thread open-and-shut.

              As for the content providers gr

              • by agm ( 467017 )

                Yes, data are data, but I don't see how a law making it illegal for you to obtain content that has been geo-blocked would break the Internet.

                The internet has no geography. There is no way the technology of the internet can tell where a person is physically located. IP addresses sure can't do that.

                The issue in this case is people lying to Netflix about their physical address. That's more of a contractural civil issue, not a criminal one.

    • The only thing that makes sense is to realize that digital content is so fundamentally different from analog that silly notions like "intellectual property" are unattainable. Bytes don't work like original works of art.
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:15PM (#49471841) Homepage

    The concept of geoblocking digital data is silly. New Zealand could solve this problem by simply making it illegal.

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )

      It sounds like they solve this problem by buying a Netflix subscription and a VPN subscription.

      And a NZ version of Netflix just started, which actually has better content than the US (just less of it). They have things like Frozen and the first 2 Hobbit movies, which aren't available on US Netflix.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Back in the day we had a Prime Minister who basically said

      "If you buy a DVD from another country, you should be allowed to play it on your DVD player"

      The argument was books, music CDs etc etc all could be used here in NZ, and if you legally bought a DVD you too should be able to play it.
      Part of the argument for this is that the Oscar Awarded Movie "The Piano", an NZ movie was not available in zone 4 (NZ)
      From that POV, DVD players had to become Zone Free by law in NZ.

      So, this should be no different. If I pay

    • by agm ( 467017 )

      Geoblocking is fine if they insist on doing this. It's their content, they set the rules. But they shouldn't be silly enough to assume that your IP address somehow betrays your location. It doesn't. It can't. The IP system is not designed to indicate geographical location.

      The reason this "problem" exists is because a company in NZ (as an example) can by exclusive rights to a particular programme (such as GoT). They have paid rights for this exclusive licence. They get a bit pissy if people can acquire this

  • "violate copyright law"

    I love the absolute terms in which this is posed, as if there was a single, worldwide, copyright law, or even better, a single, worldwide law system. I would love to see common law jurisdictions trying to cite a case in New Zealand as precedent.

    Yes, it would have effect, but nowhere as clear cut and definitive as TFA tries to present them.

  • Pointless. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:37PM (#49472111)

    It doesn't matter whether it is illegal or not. John Key (the prime minister) changed the country's employment laws under urgency when Warner Brothers threatened to move the hobbit offshore due to a union problem. I doubt a loop hole that allowed the NZ public to circumvent the will of the studios is going to survive long. But he has a great smile so we keep voting him in.

    • Can't he just change the law back after filming finishes? Doesn't seem to be a very robust strategy from the studios.
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      Lets not forget the copyright warning letters stuff that was also passed under the "emergency Christchurch" whatever it was. The guy is a crook. But not as stupid as he looks, for example copyright warning letters from ISPs is only for NZ copyright material *and* it has to go to a tribunal to disconnect the person. So none of this automated DCMA letter crap.
  • by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:44PM (#49472183) Homepage

    You'll see a monster change and the media companies stating to finally flop. I'm 40 and have been cable free for 3 years. My kids and their friends don't even watch tv, just youtube and other free media sites.

  • Whats it going to take to get politicians elected (not just in New Zealand but in Australia, the USA, Europe and elsewhere) that are no longer in bed with the big media companies and no longer giving those companies whatever the hell they want?

  • This is going to be an interesting battle, and undoubtedly the Media companies are going to claim that Global Mode is breaking copyright protections. New Zealand Law does have protections for TPMs, but it also contains very specific language about what those TPMs cannot do, specifically:
    "[TPMs must] not include a process, treatment, mechanism, device, or system to the extent that it controls geographic market segmentation by preventing the playback in New Zealand of a non-infringing copy of a work"

    Global M

    • ... The company behind the global mode is Thumbing its nose []

      "We assumed they were OK with Global Mode and we continued to spend money innovating the facility,"

      "We did that on our understanding that geo-unblocking to allow people to digitally import content purchased overseas is perfectly legal. If you say it is not, then we are going to need a lot more detail from you to understand why. Simply sending us a threatening letter, as frightening as that may be, does not get us the

  • Do you think it would make a difference in the voting booth? Of course not. Usually in English-speaking countries the voting system is undemocratic (i.e. not propotional) but some kind of geocratic system which keeps The Powers That Be just switching between Rulers and Opposition. When both are firmly in the US governments pocket, the people lose.
    • by Troed ( 102527 )

      Yeah, it does make a difference in people who see where this is heading (and fast) actually do their job as voters. The two Swedish politicians who were voted into the European Parliament under the Pirate Party flag made an enormous difference while they were there, and the German Pirate Party MEP who succeeded them has continued to do so being the rapporteur for the parliament's review of the Copyright Directive - something that's happening right now. []

      Add to that the Iceland

    • Strangely enough, the country in question here, New Zealand does have proportional voting. The end result is you end up with a bunch of minority numpties in parliament house who don't know what they're doing creating havoc. No system is perfect, but at least the two party system encourages a screening of candidates for a certain level of political competence.
  • Thanks, have a nice day :) []
  • It's 2015 ffs. Play globally or gtfo. For reals. This shouldn't even be a discussion

Interchangeable parts won't.