In biblical days, the Valley of Elah saw a clash where the combatants lent their names to the phrase that now depicts a one-sided battle ending in favour of the smaller opponent.
The highest court of Singapore delivered a judgement on Wednesday in favor of technology company, RecordTV, against Singapore broadcaster MediaCorp. The decision overturned an earlier High Court decision in favor of MediaCorp and brings an end to three years of litigation.
RecordTV operated an Internet-based digital video-recording service which allowed users to record broadcasted shows for viewing at a later date. MediaCorp, which broadcasts free-to-air programming in Singapore, alleged such a service breached copyright laws.
The judges recognized that copyright laws were unclear whether this service would amount to copyright infringement, namely, the acts of copying or communication to the public. In such case, the judges noted that the law must strike a balance between protecting existing private rights and the public interest in promoting technology. Thus, the courts should not be too quick to read statutes too expansively to stifle innovation. As MediaCorp's broadcasts are free-to-air to Singapore residents who have a license and who are entitled to record such broadcasts, what RecordTV’s service did was merely to make such right more convenient.
This is an eye-opening judgment and one which will make content owners sit up.
At first glance, it would seem that the case has little application beyond Singapore's unique TV-licensing regime. However, it should be noted that the judges disagreed on MediaCorp's arguments on potential loss of future revenue and potential monetization by RecordTV in the future once critical mass had been achieved.
Will this case have implications on other content owners such as online video broadcasters, even Web site owners?