Today marks the deadline CallPlus and several other New Zealand ISPs who use Global Mode must decide how they are responding to the legal threat given by Sky, TVNZ, Lightbox (part of Spark NZ) and Mediaworks. The big four are attacking ISPs’ use and marketing of Global Mode DNS services and similar services.
“The big four sent letters from their lawyers to CallPlus and small local ISPs earlier in April demanding not only that they stop using Global Mode and similar services – but also to declare that they should never have been using Global Mode in the first place. The company providing Global Mode has essentially been told to shut up shop,” InternetNZ explains in a statement.
InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter says that quite aside from the nature of the letters sent, the big four are going to find themselves on the wrong side of history.
"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,” he says. “Threatening to sue if you don’t comply with unreasonable demands is also not an inspiring way to win business.”
InternetNZ says it does not believe that the ISPs should switch off Global Mode, because the allegation that the service, or the use and marketing of it, is breaking the law is just that: an allegation.
"The legal questions around Global Mode are yet to be answered by a court,” Carter says. “Until they are, any demands for shutting down or public statements prostrating oneself should be treated with the contempt they deserve.”
He says, “People are used to thinking about the internet as a platform for permissionless innovation. They are also used to being able to buy goods and services offshore, and use them in New Zealand. The ISPs using Global Mode are helping people do just that.”
“We need laws that work with the internet, not laws that frustrate the opportunities it offers,” says Carter. “We made that bargain in the 1990s when the law was changed to allow parallel importing of goods; we renewed it again in the 2000s when we sensibly refused to apply legal protection to regional zone coding on DVDs.”
Carter says, “I have talked with some of the big four companies in the past week. They have been sold exclusive rights by studios and content producers in an environment where the internet is increasingly making such rights impossible to realise.
“While we can all have sympathy for their need for certainty about what they can do in defending such rights, it is hard to sympathise with the bullying approach they have adopted,” he says.
“Making heavy-handed threats against competitors, some of whom are a long way from the luxury of multimillion dollar legal budgets, are the sorts of strong-arm tactics that belong in the films and TV shows the big four are providing – not in their business tactics.”
“The innovation wars caused by the internet affect many areas of life – and many areas of business,” Carter continues. “New Zealand isn’t immune.
“Music faced this reality in the last decade and changed its approach. Movies and TV are now at the forefront. This Global Mode issue sees two very different threads of innovation colliding.”