As tensions seem to be rising between Netflix and it’s Canadian subscribers who seem to be getting blocked now from connecting to US-only content many are now turning to a customized android media streaming box as a means of getting their fix for Dr. Who, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Local tech blogger Kevin Andrews is with us this morning to discuss this new technology and how much of a threat it posses to the cable companies.
So, it looks like for many people who were using VPN’s to trick Netflix into thinking they were in the US so they could consume all the extra content turns out that it is much harder to do. Over the past year, Netflix has been cracking down on Canadians using any means to make them think they are Americans attempting to watch their shows from Canada. And so with that need to view content inaccessible here in Canada, many have turned to purchasing an Android TV streaming box and customizing it with specialized software that provides access to all the new movies, tv shows, and live sporting events. Touted as a cable killer, this box can be purchased on Amazon and other places online.
The devices are similar to Apple TV, but they use the Android operating system. That means vendors who sell them, can load them with special software so the device can access an almost unlimited amount of television shows and movies. The content comes largely from media people across the globe have illegally uploaded and made available on file-sharing websites.
There must be a catch? Turns out, legally, there might not be one in Canada, at least not yet. Yes, sometimes customers are watching copyrighted content, but they aren’t downloading that material. They’re streaming it, and streaming falls into a legal grey area. For many who are buying these android media streaming boxes pay a little extra to have it pre-configured to do this while others are finding out online how to configure the android box themselves. For many who have it, they claim it’s all they use as they have also cut their cable tv and discontinued Netflix.
That said, as the loaded Android box business grows, so do the legal questions. Many of the shows customers are watching are intended to be watched by paying subscribers to cable or streaming services that have struck distribution deals with the owners of the content. Canada’s Copyright Act prohibits unauthorized downloading of copyrighted content. But viewers using a loaded Android box are only streaming, not downloading material. And so for now, streaming falls a little bit into that grey area. Technically, streaming video could be considered a “transient”, temporary display, however I’d suspect that the Canadian Copyright Act will get updated for in the near future to fill this grey area. With that in mind, these Android streaming media boxes are very powerful mini computers that provide plenty of legal content, such as YouTube videos, gaming, and Netflix shows.
All the top cable companies alleged there is a serious issue to be tried due to copyright infringement by the companies selling these devices. They also allege the businesses are selling devices intended for illegal purposes. At the moment, the cable companies are pursuing a legal fight to get an injunction to stop the selling of these devices. Many of the cable providers in Canada claim that enabling free and illegal access to copyrighted content with these boxes negatively impacts the entire Canadian content production industry. Many of the top cable companies invest hundreds of millions of dollars each year to offer television content to Canadians and these Android streaming media boxes will undermine this investment affecting the whole industry.