Streaming media – just how legal is it?

Whilst pretty much anyone who uses the internet these days, knows that downloading ‘pirate’ music and films is not the legal thing to do; the good old Swiss now want to raise the game with streaming media also being subject to the same copyright law, and curtailing the streaming of media.

Admittedly, the case at the moment is about streaming porn videos, but as with anything where will this stop?  Could you suddenly find yourself getting a letter from a record label like Sony, demanding you pay 250 euro for listening to that streaming radio station you have on your computer or smart phone?

In Cologne, Germany a court ordered an ISP to hand over the details of users who had been accessing a website Redtube for streaming porn.  More than 10,000 users were then sent letters from Urmann – a legal firm acting on behalf of a Swiss copyright company Archive, demanding a one-off fee of 250 euro.

After numerous complaints however, the court in Cologne said the complains had raised ‘considerable’ doubts on the matter, and added that current law on ‘streaming’ was not clear enough.

The final decision on the case is not due until January, but in the meantime via a separate court in Hamburg, a temporary injunction has been issued against both Urmann and Archive, to prevent them from sending more letters out about copyright infringement to Redtube users.

The legal matters of this could be huge – I remember back in the 1970′s when people had radio cassette players and used to record radio programming to listen to later – yes technically this was illegal, and amounted to piracy.  But, it’s not something I remember having a huge impact on record sales with companies running to the courts about it.

Jump forward to the dawn of the iPod, and we have another issue – rip your CDs to iTunes and then put them on an iPod and again – technically it was, and maybe still is illegal.

But in both cases this is to do with copying the material.  With the streaming media be it Porn from Redtube, Pavarotti in concert from Classic fm or Lady Gaga via Radio 1 – it’s more akin to watching/listening to a live broadcast on TV/Radio.  We don’t expect a legal battle every-time we turn on the radio in the home or car.  IF Redtube or any other company ‘broadcasts’ material over the internet, then it should be they if anyone that should be held accountable and not the watchers or listeners.   Now, the question of ‘pirate’ stations dates back more than 100 years to the dawn of radio….


Repost from Dec. 24th 2013