Sunday, 20 September 2009

Project Canvas: everything but the movies

Project Canvas is the answer to a couch-potato’s prayers – and to the prayers of any of us who have lost the noble art of fitting our lives around TV schedules. It’s the BBC-led joint venture that is setting out to provide internet-streamed on-demand TV programming to our TVs. So what are the copyright implications of this?

The BBC Trust’s consultation documents say content may be denied access if it breaks ‘UK laws’. Meaning? ‘It is proposed that any “editorial” policy set by the venture would be limited to those concerning issues of harm, offence, protection of minors and so on as required by the Audio Visual Media Services Directive which the Government and industry expect to be implemented in the UK by 19 December 2009.’
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive amends the Television Without Frontiers Directive so that it applies not just to TV broadcasters but to ‘media service providers’ – which catches Project Canvas. The Directive doesn’t say much about copyright, though it does cover the window for cinema exhibition of films: ‘Member States shall ensure that media service providers under their jurisdiction do not transmit cinematographic works outside periods agreed with the rights holders.’
But apart from not getting to see films (like Wolverine) early through internet leaks, the screen in your living room could – from a copyright perspective – end up looking very much like the one on your desk.

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