New Zealand broadcasters have confirmed they've launched legal proceedings against internet service providers who give customers' access to "global mode", which allows customers access to offshore online content, claiming it breaches the local content providers' copyright.
Sky Network Television along with Television New Zealand, Media Works TV and Lightbox, Spark New Zealand's online streaming service, are taking action against Bypass Network Services, CallPlus Services, Orcon and Flip Services, Sky TV said in a statement.
The ISP's offer a service which disguises the customers' location and lets them use offshore streaming services, like BBC iplayer or Netflix without being subject to so-called "geo-blocking", which prevents services being used outside approved jurisdictions.
The broadcasters claim global mode breaches both copyright obligations and the Fair Trading Act, as global mode customers are accessing content, typically popular television shows such as Game of Thrones or House of Cards, which the local broadcasters and content providers have paid to bring to New Zealand.
The action has been opposed by lobby group Internet NZ, with chief executive Jordan Carter saying "the big four" will be on the wrong side of history after they sent letters to the ISP's earlier this month asking that they stop using Global Mode and declare that they should never have been using Global Mode in the first place.
"Teaming up together and using their considerable influence and resources to try and intimidate smaller players is not an inspiring way to try and win business," Carter said.
"Threatening to sue if you don't comply with unreasonable demands is also not an inspiring way to win business."
Traditional broadcasters and telecommunications providers are increasingly competitive in online streaming, which has seen viewers turn from TV to their computers and laptops to watch the latest programmes and movies. Telecommunications companies, like Spark, are looking to get in on the action with it launching its own Lightbox service to boost profitability and create new business lines.
The legal action comes one week after M2 Group, the ASX-listed voice and data services company, bought New Zealand's Call Plus for $250 million, gaining the nation's third largest broadband and fixed voice services provider and the Slingshot, Orcon, Flip and 2talk brands.
Shares of Sky TV rose 0.2 percent to $5.98. Spark was unchanged at $2.89. On the ASX M2 Group slipped 0.2 percent to A$11.02.