The High Court of Australia has released its decision on the court case between IceTV and the Nine Network. The panel of High Court judges found that IceTV is not guilty of copyright infringement if it publishes the Nine Network's television programming guide schedule in its third-party program guide. The IceTV IceGuide is used by several manufacturers of personal video recorders (PVRs) and media centre PCs such as Claritas and Beyonwiz.
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. This court case came at a time soon after the Nine Network had acquired HWW, a company responsible for aggregating and providing television guide information to Foxtel as well as print and online media groups.
The original case between the Nine Network and IceTV was dismissed, with an appeal launched by Nine then being upheld. The further counter-appeal from IceTV has been under consideration by the High Court of Australia since October 2008.
In an official statement, IceTV’s Chairman Colin O’Brien said, “I would like to thank all our shareholders, our staff, our customers and our business partners. Without their support during the last three years IceTV would not have survived. IceTV now looks forward to a successful future bringing both free-to-air TV and content via various partners to viewers in a way that satisfies viewer demand, whilst embracing the future of digital free-to-air television in Australia.”
“Today’s decision is the news that we, our staff and our loyal subscribers have waited 3 long years to hear. We would like to thank everyone for their continued support,” said IceTV’s general manager, Matt Kossatz, in a statement.
“It is a very exciting time for digital television in Australia. We are seeing more and more content becoming available and being an independent company means we will always have the ability to put the interests of the consumer first."
The High Court decision opens up the possibility for IceTV's comprehensive television program guide services to be integrated into more mainstream products including high-end LCD and plasma televisions — premium TVs such as the Samsung Series 9 (LA46A950) and the Sony BRAVIA KDL55XBR45 can potentially receive integrated IceTV guide data. Manufacturer LG's recently announced PS80 plasma television range, which features a 250GB internal hard drive for program recording, may also benefit from IceTV integration. At present these manufacturers only provide program information that is transmitted 'over-the-air' by television broadcasters. IceTV remains tight-lipped on the subject, with Kossatz told GoodGearGuide.com.au that while there were currently no concrete plans with manufacturers, that he hoped the decision "opens the eyes of manufacturers of all devices capable of utilising the consumer-related benefits of an EPG provider like IceTV".
More information about the outcomes of the court case can be found on the AustLII website.
Kossatz also spoke about IceTV's plans for the future now that the company is free of court-room battles. "We have had some very interesting conversations over the past few years with companies from all angles, but none of them have been able to eventuate into anything substantial due to the cloud that this case and Nine have put over us.
"With all of the developments taking place with digital television in Australia and now that we are a recognised player, the timing is perfect to revisit those conversations. We have huge plans for this little company and what we want to offer our users, but we have never been able to truly explore them or develop them due to a large percentage of our resources going into fighting off the Nine Network.
"As far as consumers are concerned, our service and software only helps strengthen the digital free-to-air experience. We might not have the marketing power of TiVo or others in the industry, but we certainly give our users functionality that rivals any other EPG offering in Australia."
The company also expects no legal or programming trouble from the broadcaster in the future, with Kossatz stating: "As far as I am aware there is nothing legally that Nine can do from here regarding this case. If they want to play games with their schedule, then they will lose viewers."