Foxtel Bandits – Legends or Thieves?

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By Blake O’Connor

Last week saw the long anticipated rematch between Australian boxers Anthony Mundine and Danny Green.

The fight caused plenty of controversy even before the bell rang, with Mundine vowing not to stand for the Australian national anthem.

Mundine lost the fight, although many believe he deserved to win. The bout resulted in a split decision, with the judges scoring in favour of Green 98-90, 94-94, 96-94. The judge who scored the fight 98-90 to Green is reported to have later expressed disappointment with himself about the scoring.

If that wasn’t enough, two users of Foxtel and Facebook Live, Brett Hevers and Darren Sharpe, look set to face legal action after allegedly live streaming the event to a large audience of viewers.

Both men subscribed to the fight, which they allegedly streamed live by simply pointing their phones at the tv, hitting record and streaming direct to Facebook. The speed with which people joined is breathtaking – 100 people per second at the start, then up to 1,000 every few seconds. By the time the stream was switched off, over 150,000 people had tuned in.

Needless to say, Foxtel was not impressed. The media giant contacted one of the men during the fight demanding that he stop streaming. Foxtel Chief Executive Peter Tonagh has confirmed that legal action will be brought, saying:

“It’s very clear to us that he knew what he was doing was illegal. We advised him that what he was doing was illegal”.

In anticipation, Mr Sharpe has started a ‘Go-Fund Me’ page asking people to “please donate in case I end up getting sued”. The page has so far raised over $3,000.

Legal Implications

Unfortunately for the pair, their alleged actions appear to fall squarely within the provisions of the Copyright Act 1965 (Cth) which imposes both civil and potentially criminal liability upon those who publish such material without permission.

“On the information presented it would be a reasonably straight forward matter as there has been the rebroadcast of content over the net, with no suggestion of approval,” one intellectual property lawyer remarked.

“A civil action would see Foxtel chasing compensation based on money lost or for whatever amount would have been charged for a commercial broadcast of the fight.”

The present case is just one of many brought in recent times against those who allegedly breach copyright holder rights by illegally downloading or streaming protected material.

Legal experts suggest that the breach could result in an order for damages of up to $9 million – representing the $59.95 subscription fee for each of the more than 150,000 people who viewed the live feed.

It seems Mr Sharpe’s legal defence fund may require a boost, unless Foxtel takes heed of the social media backlash against its threat and lets this one go through to the keeper.

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