ABC threat kills iView downloader

Legal threats from the ABC has resulted in the killing off of a program that allowed people to download shows from the iView show replay application.

A cease-and-desist letter from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has brought down an iView offline program that allowed people to download ABC shows directly from iView.


iView as it appears in a web browser.
(Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet )

The government-owned ABC's iView program allows Australian residents to view ABC TV content online after ( and sometimes even before ) shows have aired on ABC TV. Since the original launch, it has now been made available on the iPhone, iPad, and PS3.

The downloader program, called Python-iView, was first released in 2009, and created by Sydney Linux User Group member Jeremy Visser. It was, according to Visser's blog, designed to offer a work-around to watch iView content offline and on devices that are incompatible with Flash.

Early last month, ABC senior lawyer Jeremy Storer sent a cease-and-desist letter to Visser, warning him that Python-iView was authorising copyright infringement by allowing users to permanently download and store iView content without permission, and said that the application "appears to utilise technical means to circumvent digital rights-management security and technical protection measures used by ABC iView to protect ABC iView content from unauthorised access."

The ABC gave Visser until August 17 to resolve the matter, and Visser has since removed the program from his personal website, although it remains available on the GitHub website.

Visser told ZDNet that he didn't upload the version on GitHub, and that he hasn't actively been searching for Python-iView forks.

Following the letter from the ABC, Visser said he emailed the ABC a few times to clarify the situation, and suggested that Python-iView could be modified to open the file directly to a media player such as VLC without downloading a specific file.

"But they would not budge," he said.

Visser said that he doesn't have any hard feelings about the ABC's issue with the program, but said it was a "cowardly approach" to seek to have it removed.

"Since the beginning, iView has been designed such as to pander to the rights' holders requirements, which are caustic to causes such as viewing on free and open platforms," he said. "Shortly after the takedown notice, two major things happened. One, the Paralympics aired on iView; two, Doctor Who premiered on iView immediately after being shown in the UK. I believe both contributed to the take-down."

The ABC's decision to release each episode of Doctor Who on iView just after it airs in the UK was widely applauded, and the first day of the release of the season premiere — Asylum of the Daleks — saw 75,900 views, beating all previous iView records.

The ABC said in a statement that it asked Python-iView to be taken down because the current agreements the ABC has in place does not allow iView content to be downloaded.

"The ABC is obliged under current agreements to take reasonable action to ensure our content is used within the rights under which we acquire them," the corporation said.

The ABC said it is currently working on a HTML-based interface for iView that would be accessible for Android users, and users unable to access the current Flash-based application.

"Rest assured that Android support is very much on our immediate radar."