Hong Kong broadcaster TVB wins case to block illicit streaming in Australia

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 6:46am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 6:46am

Hong Kong’s main free-to-air broadcaster Television Broadcasts won a copyright infringement case in Australia on Thursday, in which the Federal Court will order the country’s internet service providers to block the use of set-top boxes.

Australian telecoms including Telstra, Optus, Vocus and TPG are ordered by the court to take action within 15 days to block their customers from using illegal set-top boxes, devices used to stream TVB’s copyright content, according to a statement by TVB.

The company brought the case to the Australian court in early 2018. The main purpose of the illicit streaming set-top boxes was to facilitate copyright infringement by making such material available in Australia without the consent of the copyright owners, and many viewers who have used such devices to stream TVB content were not fully aware of the fact that they were infringing copyright with this action, said Justice John Nicholas in his judgment.

With pirate content widely distributed on set-top boxes, apps and the web, copyright infringement can bring about losses up to hundreds of millions of Hong Kong dollars to the company annually, said Desmond Chan, deputy general manager of legal and international operations of TVB.

“Piracy content imposes great damage to our business-to-customer offering, the legitimate set-top box TVB Anywhere, and also our business-to-business segment as our licensing partners cannot charge the viewers as they deserve to do,” Chan said.

It is not the first victory for the city’s oldest television station in their fight against piracy. In 2015 the company joined China Central Television and other broadcasters in suing the manufacturer and retailers of set-top box TVpad in the US. The US District Court for the Central District of California ruled that TVpad should compensate TVB and other broadcasters for copyright infringement, and halt their the illicit retransmission.

After the win over set-top boxes, the company is also seeking to block pirate content websites in Australia, Singapore and other overseas markets. TVB is also in talks with the Hong Kong government to push similar site-blocking in Hong Kong, Chan said.

TVB reported in August an 18 per cent rise in first-half profit driven by strong income from drama serials co-produced in mainland China and higher advertising income. Net profit climbed to HK$201 million (US$26 million) for the first six months of this year, from HK$170 million in the same period last year. Revenue increased 10 per cent to HK$2.2 billion.

Overseas pay TV and TVB Anywhere brought in HK$73 million in the first half of 2018, down from HK$75 million from the same time last year, accounting for 4 per cent of the total revenue.