Out-Law News 2 min. read

TVCatchup vows court fight with broadcasters

The TV re-broadcasting service at the heart of a copyright fight with three of the UK's biggest broadcasters has insisted it has not broken any laws and has pledged to fight its corner in court.

TVCatchup.com relays free-to-air TV channels to computers and smartphones. Broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Five have launched a copyright infringement suit against the company, claiming that it uses material they have the rights to without permission.

TVCatchup.com has told OUT-LAW.COM that it believes it has not broken copyright law and that it will defend its business in court.

"TVCatchup’s position is that we are neither broadcasting, copying nor communicating a broadcast contrary to any relevant UK or European law," said a spokesman. "TVCatchup is supported in its actions by a highly proficient legal team, and if unable to resolve any uncertainty in the civilised manner originally intended, is prepared and ready to vigorously defend itself from the predatory commercially motivated actions of a handful of broadcasters."

An ITV spokeswoman said that it decided to take action in March this year after it received no reply from a cease and desist letter it sent to TVCatchup.com.

"ITV, Channel 4 and Five can confirm that they issued joint legal proceedings against TVCatchup, a web-based TV streaming service on 29th March 2010," she said. "TVCatchup do not have a content distribution agreement in place to stream content from any of our channels. We reserve the right to pursue any site or service we believe to be infringing our copyright or using our content in an unlicensed, illegal capacity."

TVCatchup.com said that its service was simply a way for people in poor reception areas or those without multiple televisions to watch content that they are entitled to watch in broadcast form.

Intellectual property expert Kim Walker of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said, though, that a court would be likely to find that the service did infringe the copyrights not only of the broadcasters but also of the makers of the programmes carried by the channels.

"Streaming of a broadcast is generally illegal, an infringement of copyright in the broadcast and in the underlying programme," said Walker. "But there are some possible exceptions which apply only to broadcasts. They are very narrow and as far as I'm aware are not really intended for what TVCatchup are doing."

Section 72 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) creates an exception for the public showing of television, such as the showing of sports on a big screen in the outdoors, said Walker.

Section 73 allows for the re-broadcast of television to homes, but only in some circumstances.

"Section 73 was intended to allow cable operators to retransmit free to air broadcasts in areas where the broadcast was intended to be received but it couldn't be received very well because of hills and dales," said Walker. "An awful lot of conditions are attached to that exception."

TVCatchup.com denied, though, that Section 73 is the basis of its opinion that its services do not infringe broadcasters' and programme makers' copyright.

"Although we cannot comment further on the issues in the case, we would point out that the case has little to do with [Section] 73 [of the] CDPA as has been reported, and an injunction was never applied for," the spokesman said.

When it received ITV's cease and desist letter, TVCatchup.com applied to the High Court for a determination that its services were legal.

The broadcasters then lodged their claim against the company. TVCatchup.com said that both legal processes were likely to run in parallel. It said that it would operate its service as normal but would shelve plans to extend access to other EU countries.

It will also suspend plans to allow the recording of material and to introduce subscription services, it said.

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