High Court rejects Optus' digital rights challenge

By David Blight | 7 September 2012
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The High Court has ruled Optus cannot launch an appeal against a ruling that its TV Now product infringed on the copyright of Telstra and the sporting codes.

A battle between Optus, Telstra, the AFL and the NRL has been brewing for some time, after Optus' digital TV Now product allowed viewers to watch sporting matches in a near real time environment.

Telstra had paid $153 million for the digital broadcast rights for the AFL, and launched a case in partnership with the AFL and NRL against Optus at the beginning of the year, claiming the telco was breaching copyright.

In February, the Federal Court intially ruled in favour of Optus, but after Telstra and the codes launched an appeal the decision was overturned.

In May, Optus chief executive revealed his company's plans to appeal the decision.

However, the High Court has now denied Optus the opportunity to appeal.

Optus vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs David Epstein said: "We had hoped that the High Court of Australia would grant leave to appeal, but we are pleased that it will still be considered by the Australian Law Reform Commission. So this is a debate that continues.

"This is a very important public policy issue that still needs to be resolved to give clarity to both consumers and the industry. According to a recent study by Ericsson, over half of Australians are watching content on a laptop or mobile device and almost 40 per cent are choosing to download or stream TV or video on demand.

"People are increasingly wanting to watch TV when they want, where they want and on what they want. But the law as it stands imposes an arbitrary distinction between technologies.

"Online storage is here and with us now so we think it’s time to confront the realities of that. We can’t shut ourselves off from the world.

"We don’t want to find ourselves facing a 21st century equivalent of being forced to store things on 8-track cartridges and audio cassettes rather than more convenient technology like online storage."

The industry has been closely watching the battle, as its outcome has implications for the future of digital broadcast rights.

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