Internet TV

TV adds the Internet, piracy disputes follow

As Internet TV begins to replace conventional broadcasts, hotly debated issues surrounding online piracy are beginning to migrate from the Web to the tube.

But the fledgling Internet TV manufacturing industry has a bit more structure after Haidian district court in Beijing recently ruled that electronics giant Sony was not liable when its TV set was used to access infringing online programs.

Industry observers said the ruling set a precedent in a field that lacks standards, cross-company compatibility and clear legal guidelines.

Shuimu Animation filed the complaint against Sony (China) and online content provider Beijing AnviewTech, claiming they pirated its copyrighted 52-episode series China’s Five-Thousand-Year History and asked for more than 1.55 million yuan ($243,242) in compensation.

The Shanghai-based animation maker told the court that one of its employees bought an Internet-compatible Sony-made LCD TV in April last year and soon found a pre-loaded list for early childhood programs that linked to Shuimu’s animation series offered by the AnviewTech portal.

It alleged both defendants should be held liable for transmitting the unauthorized program.

Yet Sony told the court that it “is just the producer of TV sets” and not a content provider. The court ruled that as the hardware maker, Sony cannot control what is accessed after the TV is connected to the Internet.

As well, the manufacturer is not in a position to edit or sort content on linked websites, the court ruled.

A signed memo between Sony and AnviewTech makes no mention of revenues, only “technical cooperation”, the court found.

Co-defendant AnviewTech claimed Shuimu Animation authorized the copyright for the program to another firm, Panhai Hongxing, for use online, which in turn licensed it to AnviewTech.

It also disagreed with the claim for compensation, saying “the series is not a hit any longer so its market value is not so high”.