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Copyright Decision In Australia Vindicates 3d-Party EPG Provider 66

angry tapir writes "In a landmark decision, the High Court of Australia has ruled that Electronic Program Guide (EPG) vendor IceTV has not violated the copyright of Channel 9 by reproducing programming information in its third-party EPG. This case has been running since May 2006, when the Nine Network alleged that IceTV's electronic program guide infringed the copyright of Channel 9's television schedule."
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Copyright Decision In Australia Vindicates 3d-Party EPG Provider

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  • This is great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hecatonchires ( 231908 ) on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @02:49AM (#27671793) Homepage
    IceTV provide a decent product, and the big companies were trying to stifle it while they faffed around. Good to see them win.
    • Yep, been using it for a few years now, got really tired of tweaking my grabber every couple of weeks when it broke or some provider changed the way they displayed information. IceTV has literally been, pay money, download grabber for MythTV, follow the basic instructions and leave it alone.

      Wonder how long till they start populating the data properly?
      • What do you mean by "populating the data properly"?

        • Well IceTV to get around the previous ruling, IceTV only posted what could be "predicted" to be scheduled. So quite often you would see "Channel 9 and Affiliates only" or something similar. So what I meant was, I wonder when they will change from "Predicting" to doing what they do for all the other channels.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by BrokenHalo ( 565198 )
          Channel 9 already gets around any automatic recording by grossly misrepresenting their timetable. Anyone who uses it will have a large section of advertising (or the previous program) at the beginning of their recording, and the end will be chopped off. The difference in timing is usually around 12 minutes for primetime, but I have known it stretch to over 20 minutes on occasion.
      • got really tired of tweaking my grabber every couple of weeks when it broke or some provider changed the way they displayed information

        You wrote your grabber wrong ;-)

        When the then-current Aus grabber (JavaXMLTV?) stopped chasing the moving target of the TV guide websites when they went to Javascript 'encryption' in about 2005 or 2006, I - a half-arsed programmer if ever there was one - sat down and decided to write my own. One week, and a bit of lateral thinking* later, I had a working grabber. Outside o

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This is great news for us Australians who use the IceTV service - its adds TIVO like features to PVR recorders.
    Now Channel Nine might actually play nice with them

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @02:59AM (#27671829)

    You can't copyright a fact.

    To think anyone could argue over that for three years...

    • You cannot copyright facts but somehow you can copyright a phone book.

      • by bug1 ( 96678 )

        There are two types of copyright, "original works" and "collective work".

        The copyright of original works is for just that, original work, like a song, or a book, or a program.

        A Collective work is a collection of original works, like the "hits of the 90's" compilation of songs.

        The copyright of a collective work is much weaker than for an original work, it only protects the collection or arrangement of the original works, and you still need copyright permission to use the original works in your collection.


      • Actually this decision appears to disapprove of the phone book case (Desktop Marketing), though as they say IceTV didn't dispute the copyright of the TV schedule, they just disputed that they had infringed it, so the court didn't consider the question in depth here. But maybe it'll be overturned in the future.

        "It is by no means apparent that the law even before the 1911 Act was to any different effect to that for which the Digital Alliance contends. It may be that the reasoning in Desktop Marketing with respect to compilations is out of line with the understanding of copyright law over many years. These reasons explain the need to treat with some caution the emphasis in Desktop Marketing upon "labour and expense" per se and upon misappropriation. However, in the light of the admission of Ice that the Weekly Schedule was an original literary work, this is not an appropriate occasion to take any further the subject of originality in copyright works."

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 )

        Laws in your country might be different, but you cannot copyright a phonebook here either. You can, though, copyright the organisation (the "database" if you want), but not the data itself, unless you created the data yourself, too.

        You didn't create the person's name, phone number or address. But you created the database entry, and that entry is yours. Not the data within, though. So anyone could take your phonebook and use it as a source for his own database of a phone book.

        If your head hurts already, don'

        • by ozphx ( 1061292 )

          So anyone could take your phonebook and use it as a source for his own database of a phone book.

          Not strictly correct. Anyone could take the same data set and use that as a source for his own phone book. However, they generally can't take your phonebook and use it as the data source, as they would be likely copying your 'collation' of the data.

          This is why, for example, map products or baseballs stats have deliberate minor inaccuracies. These are enough to prove that someone copied the data rather than collat

        • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

          So anyone could take your phonebook and use it as a source for his own database of a phone book.

          They can still get you if they faked some data and you copied the fake data. Fake data aren't facts and thus protected by copyright, so if you copy the fake data, you've violated copyright.

          This is done all over the place. Dictionaries will have fake words, phone books will have fake names, numbers, or addresses, even books reprinted from the public domain may change a word or a sentence or a spelling slightly and get you for infringement that way.

          So if you're going to copy someone else's collection of facts

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 )

      You can't copyright a fact.

      That is true, however a TV guide doesn't become a fact until after the shows have been broadcast. Before that time it is a plan.

      But I would go one step further. Australian TV networks are terrible at sticking to their schedule. They consistently air their shows late, swap shows to a different time/night without warning or show a different episode that the one that was advertised. I generally consider a TV guide to be a work of fiction.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bpkiwi ( 1190575 )
      Reading the full decision from the High Court is actually (for a change) worth while. It's in pretty plain English, and is very well written.

      It correctly identifies that facts can not be copyright, even when "colocated" with original material that can be. However, the "original material" may consist of the presentation of those facts, such as their order. Consider a poem that consists of well know facts, but presented in a dramatic and original order.

      They determined that IceTV had indeed copied facts
      • Finally, they also noted that Nine Networks had probably not expended much effort to arrange the information, which could also be a factor in such cases.

        don't networks have whole departments that plan the lineup and scheduling? I believe that there is much work in determining what shows will air and in what order.

        • don't networks have whole departments that plan the lineup and scheduling? I believe that there is much work in determining what shows will air and in what order.

          I don't supposed anyone knows a quicker way to say "That is a stupid suggestion and you are stupid for suggesting it"? The TV guide is just a statement of what the schedule looks like. It's not used to plan the schedule, it reflects the plan. You might as well say that a great deal of work went into making the price list at your local agricultural supply. It's true that the prices are based on a variety of factors as diverse as the rainfall in the midwest and the price of beef in Japan, but that doesn't gra

  • Way to go Australia (Score:5, Informative)

    by KlaymenDK ( 713149 ) on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @03:01AM (#27671841) Journal

    I recall a recent story about UK train schedules being made available by a third party, which *was* deemed an infringement.

    You guys got it right. Thumbs-up.

    • by sr180 ( 700526 )

      Same thing, A Collection of Facts can be copyrighted. This has been tested under Australian law in a case where a company was copying the phone book.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Factual information can only be copyrighted by the Crown, who gets special treatment.

  • Legal whotnots (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chuck Chunder ( 21021 ) on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @03:02AM (#27671845) Homepage Journal

    Can be found here [].

    Well done Ice TV.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now if they could just get the stations to start and end shows at the advertised times!

    • Certainly save some space! I add 10 - 20 mins (sometimes more if it is following a show like "Rove Live). Not so bad now that I have 3 tuners.
  • by AbRASiON ( 589899 ) * on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @03:49AM (#27672103) Journal


    Are they so scared their programming is that bad, that they don't want people to know what they have on?
    It's one of the most stupid things a company has ever done, it's not like sharing the content, it's a bloody listing.

    Someone needs to slap channel 9 on the upside of the head, wtf were they thinking?

    • Couldn't agree more, I've been using IceTV since 2006 and here's some stats since January 2008.

      Title | Recorded | Last Recorded
      TEN Digital | 188 | April 21 2009
      7 Digital | 40 | April 20 2009
      Nine Digital | 34 | April 11 2009
      ONE Digital | 24 | March 10 2009
      Nine HD | 11 | April 20 2009
      SBS | 10 | March 31 2009
      7 HD Digital | 10 | April 10 2009
      ABC1 | 10 | April 12 2009
      ONE HD | 1 | March 16 2009

      Sure there is a bit of a bias to Ten Digital as My partner enjoys Neighbours, but still I regularly missed re

      But not their website. And since TV might one day be replaced by online media, that could be a legitimate worry. Still, I agree that preventing people from obtaining a TV schedule is not an option.

      • Their website is atrocious, so very very busy.. glad I don't have to go there anymore Nine []
        • I can imagine. Many of the official UK sites for TV schedules are horrible too.

          • by Hucko ( 998827 )

            And when you reply to give feed back to shows (this irks me particularly on current affairs type shows), they give you a 8mm x 5mm box to fit a response into. gah

    • by njen ( 859685 )
      I could be wrong, but I think what was at stake here was a potential revenue stream. If Channel 9 was legally the only service to offer this data, then they could charge what they wanted for it to other companies.

      But with this ruling, they basically will not have a monopoly over that service, and other companies can compete on equal footing. And a good call too!
    • by wilko11 ( 452421 )


      I think that what they were worried about is that it encourages people to record their station with a PVR and then skip the advertising.

      TIVO in Australia has ad skipping disabled. To carry the new "Freeview" logo and gain access to the enhanced Freeview EPG (when it becomes available!) an STB cannot permit ad skipping.

      A non-freeview box with IceTV gives both ad skipping and a good EPG

    • by bh_doc ( 930270 )

      Are they so scared their programming is that bad, that they don't want people to know what they have on?

      It's Channel 9, so I'm going with "Yes".

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @04:07AM (#27672175)
    Facts, per se, are not copyrightable. A schedule is a collection of facts. Once published, the schedule is basically public information. As long as it is not a straight copy of wording and style, they never had a case.
  • Could somebody more legal-savvy than myself please explain what implications this ruling might have for e.g. this problem []? Especially since para 28 in the ruling [] states that:

    Copyright does not protect facts or information. Copyright protects the particular form of expression of the information, namely the words, figures and symbols in which the pieces of information are expressed, and the selection and arrangement of that information.

    • by bpkiwi ( 1190575 )
      IANAL ... But I've at least read the court ruling

      FunkWorks appears to be an almost identical case to this, they are copying simple facts that are arranged in chronological order, where that order is the natural and obvious order for such facts.

      They might have a bit of a problem in that they are copying a large part of the timetable (all weekdays I beleive, but not weekends), but I can't really see RailCorp being able to claim that they put much effort into compiling the timetable - it's not that big.
      • Re:Train timetables (Score:4, Informative)

        by wilko11 ( 452421 ) on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @06:23AM (#27672739) Homepage
        From my reading of the decision, it looks like this would apply to the train timetable (but IANAL).

        What the court has said is that although collections of facts can be copyrighted, the question is to the degree of originality in the expression of those facts.

        In the case of the TV guide, the alleged infringement consisted of two pieces of information; the program title and the time of transmission. The title is supplied by the program's creator; not Channel 9 and the time can only be expressed in a standard way (Channel 9 could hardly claim copyright of "7:30 pm"); Channel 9 has therefore not exercised creativity or originality.

        The train timetable is much the same. There are two pieces of information; a station name (which is much like the program name) and a departure time. Cityrail has not exercised any creativity or originality in the expression of this information.

        It is the lack of originality of expression that results in the information not being copyright; it is not a fair use claim, so the amount of information copied does not matter.

      • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@gm a i l . com> on Wednesday April 22, 2009 @07:14AM (#27672925)
        The big issue with the FunkWorks ruling is that train times are not facts, they are fiction. Complete and utter fiction. And therefor fully copyrightable :)
        • by Lunzo ( 1065904 )
          I disagree. It is a fact that in a perfect world the train would arrive at the time printed in the timetable. They just neglected to print the following facts: 1. We don't live in a perfect world, and 2. The train will arrive later than the printed time.
  • story tag: "thankgod"

    I'm imagining the person who wrote this tag sweating and pacing, then finding out about this judgment and falling to his knees, shedding tears of relief and joy, and looking to the sky thanking god for this miracle.


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