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October 2019
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TV Network Declares IPTV Tool Copyright Infringing, Even Though It's Just A Tool

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To a certain segment of the population, just mentioning IPTV is enough to get them frothing at the mouth and shouting "copyright infringement" at anyone who will listen. This isn't entirely without cause, of course, as IPTV is a technology that can be used to infringe by streaming copyrighted TV shows and films. There are entire sites out there that list such infringing content, as well. But the fact remains that IPTV is a tool, not content that infringes copyright itself. As such, there are plenty of IPTV-related tools and uses out there that are perfectly legit.Like Perfect Player, for instance. Perfect Player is an android app that allows the user to choose what IPTV playlists from 3rd party providers can be played. In other words, it's essentially a media player for IPTV streams. Upon installation, it does not come with infringing playlists to stream. What is watched on the player is entirely the choice of the end user. Despite all of this, one unnamed major pay-TV company filed a copyright complaint against the app with Google, arguing that because end users can use Perfect Player to infringe on copyright, the app itself was infringing. Google, frustratingly, complied and has delisted the app from the Play Store.

This week, however, the software – which has in excess of a million downloads from Google Play – was removed by Google because of a copyright complaint. It was filed by a major pay-TV provider, the name of which we’ve agreed not to publish while the complaint is ongoing.It states that the software allows users to watch channels from unauthorized sources and is therefore illegal. However, there appears to be a considerable flaw in the pay-TV company’s arguments.In common with the developers behind various torrent clients, Perfect Player’s developer doesn’t dictate how the software is used because no control can be exercised over that. Just like Windows Media Player, uTorrent, or even VLC (which has similar capabilities), it can be used for entirely legal purposes – or not, depending on the choice of the user.
In other words, it's a tool. Now, the entertainment industry has a long and storied history of pretending that tools that have perfectly legitimate uses are the world's greatest devils and somehow themselves infringe copyright. This goes back to the Betamax, and likely before that. But this particular case is one that ought to have the attention of a great many software providers out there, if not hardware providers as well. As the TorrentFreak post notes, if Perfect Player is infringing, why isn't Windows Media Player? They have the exact same capabilities. And, taken a step further, if Perfect Player is infringing because users can use it to infringe copyright, then why aren't android phones themselves infringing?Is that line of thought extreme and ridiculous? Of course it is, but it's built off of the same ridiculous line of thinking as whoever complained about Perfect Player. TorrentFreak is rather charitable in positing that perhaps this TV company came across a version of Perfect Player that had already been loaded with pirate IPTV streams and is simply confused.
Giving the TV company the benefit of the doubt for a moment, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that it acquired a ready-configured copy of Perfect Player from a third-party that already contained a URL for a ‘pirate’ service. That could give the impression it’s a dedicated pirate app.That being said, downloading a copy from Google Play would’ve highlighted the important differences between a non-configured player and one set up for piracy. That’s impossible now, of course, because Google has taken Perfect Player down.
The latest at the time of this writing is that Perfect Player will be filing a DMCA counternotice, having retained a lawyer. One hopes that some simple facts about what this app is and how it operates out of the box will be all that Google needs to get it relisted quickly. And maybe, just maybe, one TV industry player will learn a lesson about firing off DMCA notices without actually knowing what its talking about.

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posted at: 12:00am on 25-Oct-2019
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Aussie Censorship In Action: National Enquirer Editor Threats Get Bookstores To Block Sale Of Ronan Farrow Book

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We've covered a few times in the past some of the oddities of both Australia's defamation laws and its views on intermediary liability. Our big complaint regarding both of those things is how they end up enabling censorship by the powerful of critical reporting and commentary. Perhaps a perfect example of this is former National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard having some pricey lawyers threaten Australian booksellers if they decided to offer Ronan Farrow's new book Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators. If you haven't guessed, a part of Farrow's book covers efforts by the Enquirer to "get dirt" on certain people in what appears to be an attempt to suppress their credibility or ability to go public, and also to engage in the practice of "catch and kill" (from whence the book gets its title) a story by "buying" the exclusive rights to it, only to kill it.It appears that some of those threats have worked, as a number of booksellers have chosen not to sell the book (though some others, admittedly, are still offering it for sale). Of course, the threat letter to the various book retailers has some weasel wording, allowing Howard and his lawyers to pretend that they're not trying to seek the blocking of the book:

We have been consulted by Dylan Howard in relation to false and defamatory allegations, which he has been advised and has reason to believe will be included in the above-named book, the Tweed firm wrote in a Sept. 27 letter to Hive Store Limited, one of the targeted booksellers (which sources say also include Britain's W.H. Smith and Wordery chains).We have put the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group Limited on notice that, if the offending content is included in the book, we are instructed to take such legal action as may be appropriate, the letter continued.The letter concluded: You are now on notice under UK and Irish defamation laws of the potential defamatory content within the said book. We would therefore urge you to satisfy yourselves that the offending references to our client have been removed prior to distribution by your company.
See if you can spot the weasel words. There are a lot of conditional statements, basically saying that "if" there's defamatory content in the book, then the booksellers will be "on notice," and (so the letter claims) potentially liable. As the Daily Beast article linked above notes, Howard has previously sued other media properties to stop them from covering news about himself:
Howard and American Media sought court orders restraining the broadcaster from airing footage obtained in the lobby of the publisher's New York headquarters on March 7 this year and requiring Channel Nine to hand over the allegedly "improperly obtained material" for destruction.
It's quite incredible for a journalist (especially one working for a publication with as dubious a history as the National Enquirer) to be attacking freedom of speech when it regards reporting about himself.

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posted at: 12:00am on 25-Oct-2019
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