EU ruling may end sale of streaming boxes with 'piracy enabling' addons preloaded on devices
The writing may be on the wall for internet streaming boxes used widely for watching free movies, TV and sport.
In a ruling today, the European Court Of Justice says that the sale of devices such as Android boxes with links to pirated movie websites can constitute an infringement of copyright.
The case concerned a Dutch retailer who was selling Android boxes “pre-loaded” with software able to stream copyrighted movies and sport without paying for the content.
The judgement clarifies a grey area in European law and could lead to a new crackdown on the devices.
“The sale of a multimedia player which enables films that are available illegally on the internet to be viewed easily and for free on a television screen could constitute an infringement of copyright,” said the European Court today.
“Having regard, in particular, to the content of the advertising of the multimedia player... that the main attraction of that player for potential purchasers is the pre-installation of the add-ons concerned, it must be held that it is, as a rule, deliberately and in full knowledge of the circumstances that the purchaser of such a player accesses a free and unauthorised offer of protected works.”
The judgement could see shops prosecuted if they sell Android boxes which are ‘pre-loaded’ with software to fetch premium movies and sport from around the web to stream.
Up to now, the law has been unclear because such Android set-top boxes stream movies rather than download them to the physical device. Because they do it this way, they are not regarded as legally accountable in the same way as if the user downloaded a movie to store onto a computer.
Movie companies see it as a loophole in the law.
Some retailers sell Android boxes, openly touting their ability to access
“Watch full HD or 3D movies whenever you like,” says one Irish website selling the boxes.
“You have the choice of any film ever made at any time you feel like watching it. From the old classics to the new releases and a large number of films which are still running in the cinemas…. You will find coverage of all of the Premiership matches in the UK together with Serie A matches, Bundesliga matches and a whole host of others.”
However, the European Court Of Justice has now ruled that there is a difference between selling a device, such a computer, that can access pirated services and a device that is pre-configured to do so.
However, the ruling did not say that the use or sale of Android boxes that are not ‘loaded’ with software to gather pirated movie streams are illegal.