The UK High Court is to ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) if streaming live TV programmes over the Internet is an act subject to copyright laws after provisionally ruling that it is.
Mr Justice Floyd said that TVCatchup did communicate to the public when it streamed programmes broadcast by ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five to Internet users. The judge said he would ask the ECJ to consider whether he is right.
TVCatchup.com relays free-to-air TV channels to computers and smartphones. Broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Five claim that it uses material they have the rights to without permission. UK copyright laws state that communicating to the public is an act restricted by copyright in certain circumstances.
Floyd said it was his “provisional opinion” that TVCatchup’s streaming service constituted a communication to the public.
“In my provisional view, the acts of TVCatchup in intercepting the [broadcasters’] broadcasts (and works comprised therein) and making them available via the Internet amount to acts of communication to the public,” the judge said in his ruling.
“TVCatchup’s intervention is plainly by an organisation other than the original broadcaster. It is, [on the face of it], a ‘communication to the public’. It is necessary to see whether it can be brought within the limitations on that term,” the judge said.
The judge said that it would ask the ECJ to consider whether TVCatchup’s streaming service was indeed a communication to the public. He said the ECJ had to consider whether the service attracted a “new public” who would not otherwise watch the programmes directly through the broadcasters and whether that was significant in determining whether its streaming of programmes constituted unlawful activity.