This post was most recently updated on September 14th, 2018
It is very confusing to many people to relate Intellectual Property thievery to satellite TV. This is a subject of discussion that we as individuals give various definitions to it to suit our needs. It has different interpretations by different people. While the topic centres around Intellectual property vs Satellite TV, we will be focusing more on explaining what intellectual property is. Once we know the later, it will be very easy to relate it with the former.
What is Intellectual Property?
According to the definition by wipo.int, intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property is protected by law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks and so on. These protections enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.
When we relate the above definition to television broadcasting(especially satellite TV and IPTV), It means, some set of people hold the rights to tv contents that are being enjoyed by the public. By extension, all TV contents are the creation of some people who enjoy the protection of their creations by the law.
Types & Categories of Intellectual Property
( «Copyrights» or ©). Copyright applies to a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution. This right usually only for a limited time. Additionally, Copyright is a form of intellectual property, applicable to certain forms of creative work. Broadcast rights fall under these creative works. PyTV companies create and buy contents.
Here is an example: a dance performance by itself is not copyrighted, but as soon as the presentation is recorded on a video, it will be protected. In the US, this protection lasts throughout the life of the author plus seventy years. Let me narrow this down to Tv broadcasting. beIN and Supersports hold exclusive rights to broadcast all EPL matches for a definite period of time in MENA and sub-Sahara Africa respectively. These right can only be revoked by premiership. However, all other things being equal EPL cannot revoke their rights until it expires.
2. Patent Law
The patent law prohibits the use of other people’s invention. The law also prohibits the import or sale of your invention during the term of the patent (document proving your exclusive right to the invention). The term of validity of the patent in the United States ranges from 14 to 20 years, depending on what you have patented.
A trademark is a symbol that is used in trade to identify a company’s goods or services. It can be a word, image, sound (do not believe it, but yes, the characteristic sound of motorcycles Harley Davidson is a registered trademark), colour, etc. The legislation on trademarks primarily protects the rights of consumers. When you bought a bottle of Coca-Cola you, as a consumer, need to be absolutely sure that it was bought, and not the Pepsi bottle, and vice versa.
Trademark works as long as the owner keeps it. Few people know that “Aspirin” was once a protected trademark, but the owner could not support the trademark financially so that the trademark hit the so-called public domain, its use became public.
In a similar twist, trademarks also apply to television broadcasting. The registered trademark of DStv is denoted by its logo and slogan. This is further represented by its Smartcards. No other pay-TV company is permitted to re-broadcast DStv channels for example except it is permitted by Multichoice. Africa has low copyright enforcement rates, therefore, piracy flourishes.
4. A trade secret
A trade secret is an information that has economic value, and the adequate protection which allows you to benefit from it, save the reputation, the goods on the market and avoid unnecessary costs.
In recent years, many states have passed laws that address misappropriation of a trade secret as a crime involving deprivation of liberty.
Why does the Law Protect People from Intellectual Property Theft?
Irrespective of the business you are doing, as long as you create the idea, you should enjoy some degree of protection by the law. The extent or limits of such protection is also determined by the law of the land. Below are some of the reasons why protection against intellectual property theft is of the essence.
1. Theft of ideas
Let’s say you invented something very valuable. Then you find a potential investor, presented him your idea but it was refused. Unfortunately, very often together with the refusal, you may also lose your idea. In other words, he has stolen your unprotected idea from you and that is why he refused your idea/proposal.
Moral: if your idea is not protected and, for example, you have not formed a complete set of documents for filing a patent application, there is nothing stopping anyone from stealing such an invention or an idea (potential investors do not like to sign a non-disclosure agreement.).
2. Do you have only a year of protection
Similarly, maybe you invented some products and set up the production. However, you did not draw a patent application or lawsuit to protect your invention. After more than a year of success in business, you now realise that your product is not protected and you decide to patent it. But by that time it may be too late because the application has been submitted by someone else.
Lesson: in most countries, including the United States, if you have not filed a patent application within 12 months – you can never get a patent on that invention.
3. Brand Protection
Let’s say you have opened a new business under the brand name “Lemmy”. Your brand “Lemmy” is developing successfully, have it in mind that one morning you could wake up and find yourself in a court of law as a defendant in the lawsuit for violation of the use of someone else’s trademark. This happens a lot and it is global. You can purchase a domain name with the name morgan.com another might go behind you are register morgan.org, morgan.uk and so on.
Moral: you need a patent attorney to make sure that your brand (E.g “Lemmy”) does not belong to other companies. A good example – when Apple began selling the iPad in China, Apple got sued for trademark infringement for using the name “IPad 2”, which belonged to another Chinese company.
4. copyright content
You publish an article on your website and use an image you don’t own within the content. A couple of months later, you get a DCMA letter from the owner of a particular image, demanding payment for the unauthorised use of the images. In a milder situation, the owner might order a takedown of the image. In satellite TV business, you can’t use the Logo or slogan or name of an existing company without an express permission. Do you still remember what happens when TStv listed beIN channels on their website?
Moral: you have to get permission from Copyright-holder before using their materials. This is a real case: many people face stringent penalties.
5. More About Copyright
Another illustration, let’s say you run your company’s website. Then you hire a copywriter to write articles for your business. A copywriter writes articles, and you are proud to place them on your site. Three months later, you get a DCMA notice that the same article is posted on the website of your competitor. Of course, you need to remove an article by a competitor, but if he refuses? You need to show him a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Unfortunately, you may lose out on this for the following reason:
Moral: Under the law, you are the copyright owner of the article, only if a copywriter wrote them for you as an employee under an employment contract ( “work-made-for-hire”). If the copywriter was not your employee and has written articles as a freelancer, the law will not come to your aid.
Intellectual property vs Satellite TV
The case of Intellectual property often comes up in television broadcasting. In recent times, contents owners are taking holistic and drastic measures to combat broadcast pirates. In the UK, we have several cases of arrests and prosecution as a result of copyright infringement arising from intellectual property theft.
Coming down to Africa, the major Satellite TV providers are on the trail of any individuals pirating their contents. DStv raids are not something any satellite TV dealer will find interesting. This cat and mouse chase will continue for sure. Ironically we can’t do without television.
To better address this section, please take your time to read my comprehensive article on “broadcast piracy”. In that article, you will find out how broadcasters obtain and maintain TV rights. Furthermore, you will see examples of a successful lawsuit against broadcast piracies in Africa.
In conclusion, once you are informed, you can never be deformed with respect to knowledge. Have a wonderful weekend!!