A post from Jeremy Visser caught my eye – apparently ABC Legal have required him to remove a page detailing his python-iview program. Jeremy has put the letter up on his website. Robert Mibus has posted a response making the, somewhat obvious, point that a person downloading from the ABC website is doing the same thing as someone who uses a PVR to record from a broadcast. I assume that the ABC hasn’t been sending letters to Harvey Norman though. Maybe they have?
The letter suggests that Mr Visser “may be in breach of section 116AP of the Copyright Act 1968 by offering to the public a circumvention service for technological protection measures implemented in respect of ACB[sic] iview content“. The letter does not identify what constitutes the technological protection measure, nor how they allege it is being circumvented. On a quick review of the python-iview code it seems to be a front end to rtmpdump. It parses the information made publicly available from the ABC website to get the address of the target content then runs rtmpdump to get it (I say “seems to be a front end” since I haven’t actually run it – wouldn’t want to receive one of those nasty letters don’t you know). So, it automates putting together the rtmpdump command – something that someone could do themselves with a pen and paper (or text editor). Rtmpdump then makes a request under the rtmp protocol to the ABC which serves up the content. Given the nature of rtmp as a protocol it seems reasonable to assume that the request the ABC receives from rtmpdump is the same as it receives from the Flash player application (since all that the iview page probably does is present rtmp parameters to the flash player). The ABC chooses to serve the stream in response to the request. One would hope that creating a protocol compliant request from publicly available information could not constitute a circumvention, but the Copyright Act and logic don’t necessarily play well together. It is also curious to see that the ABC is alleging that the provision of the code is itself a provision of a circumvention “service”??
In any event, the practical effect seems to be that Mr Visser went to some trouble to help the ABC provide content to the Australian taxpayers that the ABC chose not to service (apparently Android users?) and the ABC has shut him down as a result. The ABC has refused to support Android devices because, it claims, that there are a greater proportion of iPhones – an interesting argument. One might imagine the reaction if the ABC abandoned its broadcasts to WA because 80% of us are on the Eastern Seaboard (there is an FOI request and story in that for journalists on relative costs to prepare an app vs costs of telecommunications infrastructure across the continent). Moreover, as I understand it, ABC editorial policies strictly limit even mentioning commercial product names and endorsements in its reportage. However, in order to listen to or view ABC content online the ABC requires that you acquire a commercial product – the Flash Player. Seems a bit upside down to me.
Jeremy might think of making a submission to the ALRC Copyright Review?
1. See, eg, section 12 of their Editorial Policies