NRL and Optus

On 27 April 2012 the Full Federal Court decided the matter of National Rugby League Investments Pty Limited v Singtel Optus Pty Ltd.

The case was about the “Optus TV Now” service provided by Optus, which was a digital television recording service for its users which allowed its users to download free-to-air television programmes and play them back on their devices at a later date. These devices could be their personal computers, mobile phones, or other mobile devices.

The service was used by Optus’s users to record NRL games, and NRL wasn’t happy with this. NRL brought proceedings before the Federal Court alleging that Optus had infringed its copyright. Telstra joined the proceedings as the exclusive licensee to the broadcast.

The decision made was very technical and was determined mostly on the questions of whether Optus should be considered the maker of the videos held in its servers, or if Optus could say that the videos were for private and domestic use.

In the end the Full Court considered that Optus retained possession at all times of the videos, the servers where it was stored in, and that while the playback process was automatic, Optus’s role in providing such a service cannot be disregarded when considering who was responsible for making copies of the video.

While it is arguable that this matter benefits television broadcasters it may also affect commercial data locker services such as “Dropbox” or even Apple’s “Cloud” service, as they similarly provide services where their users can upload recordings to their data locker.

If you are a small tech start up looking to offer commercial data locker services to your users, you should take heed of this decision and obtain legal advice before you proceed.