Geo-block busting ISP gets thumbs up from Chapman Tripp
[UPDATE: Fyx axed its Global Mode on May 15. Shortly afterwards it was revealed Fyx' parent company Maxnet had been bought by Australia's Vocus - whose CEO told NBR he was broadbly supportive of ]Fyx' Global Mode, but wanted to shift Maxnet's focus away from the home market.[
May 10: NBR ONLINE asked Chapman Tripp senior associate Justin Graham for his comment on Fyx's new internet service, which lets New Zealanders beat geographic restrictions on US commercial download providers such as Netflix (whose content is ordinarily blocked to IP addresses from outside the US)..
Mr Graham - a specialist in intellectual property law - gave the service a green light from the standpoint of New Zealand law.
"I’d expect to see increasing activity in this kind of space. It is consistent with New Zealand’s policy on intellectual property, parallel importing and geographical restrictions, namely that geographical restrictions are not consumer-friendly and New Zealand consumers should be able to access copyright content in a competitive and cost-effective environment," he said.
But, as with a New Zealander accessing iTunes US, you could be violating a media provider's commercial terms - giving it the option to cut off your sevice (should it wish to lose a paying customer).
"Whether use of 'global mode' ISPs would prompt contractual responses from content providers would be an interesting issue; a facilitative response would probably ultimately be more beneficial," Mr Graham said.
The Chapman Tripp lawyer was not aware of any other ISP in the world that offered a global mode.
I’m picking there’ll be others following suit in fairly short order though."
New ISP offers access to geo-blocked sites like Netflix
May 8: A new internet service provider, offers a "Global Mode" that "offers greater access to the internet by circumventing geographical restrictions placed on the certain internet services."
FYX ("Fix"), launched on May 4 as a sub-brand of established ISP Maxnet, holds the tantalising promise that its users will be able to directly access US based-commercial download services such as Hulu and Netflix, and the likes of the BBC's iPlayer - all of which offer a motherlode of street-legal movies and TV shows for download, but are "geo-blocked" to stop people outside their parent countries accessing them.
More technical users already use a range of workarounds to access the likes of Netflix.
FYX promises to take geo-block beating into the mainstream.
Pay as you go
The new ISP is also offering an un-capped pay-by-the gigabyte approach of 34 cents per GB - albeit on top of a $34.34 a month (with a phone line) or $59.34 a month (naked DSL) base fee.
There is only one payment option: by credit card.
“It’s about offering a much bigger internet to New Zealanders – the type of internet the rest of the world have had access to for years,” says Chief Internet FYX-er Andrew Schick.
"There is a bunch of stuff on the internet that a few of us didn't have the freedom to access - at least without stealing it, and we aren't into that. So we decided to FYX the internet by removing some of the barriers that were getting in the way of great choice."
Perhaps wary of legal complications, FYX's website adds, "It's important to remember that first and foremost we are an ISP. We are not a content provider, we just do our hardest give you the freedom you deserve."
My Schick was coy on specifically promoting access to the likes of Hulu and Netflix. When NBR ONLINE raised them, he offered only " the services you mentioned are some of many services able to be used."
Earlier, NBR asked Chapman Tripp intellectual property specialist Justin Graham about a similar situation: accessing the US version of iTunes from New Zealand.
The lawyer said that while the arrangement would break Apple's terms and conditions (so far without consequence for your correspondent), it probably did not break the law - and that there is certainly not any issue with the so-called three strikes law.
"The advent of FYX is a fascinating development," New Zealand Computer Society CEO Paul Matthews told NBR ONLINE.
"While many tech-savy kiwis already access overseas content services, preferring to access a legitimate service supposedly illegitimately rather than accessing content from more murky sources, there has still been uncertainty around the legality of doing so from New Zealand. If nothing else, this development pushes the issue."
"I suspect if they're openly marketing Global Mode, the legality will be put to the test in court."
For Mr Matthews, the key message is that the Internet is global. "Enforcing content access based on location is enforcing an 'offline' business model on the online world. That model was always going to break sooner of later. Hats off to Maxnet for pushing the issue."
Sky TV threat
Sky TV and TVNZ have local download rights to most events, movies and shows wrapped up, badly stunting the likes regional contenders such as Quickflix, and the movie and (wholly absent) TV sections of the local incarnation of iTunes.
CEO John Fellet has always maintained his company does not hold a near-monopoly, as it faces new-technology threats from so-called over-the-top content providers such as iTunes and Netflix (at least to a degree. Beyond entertainment programming, the All Blacks and other NZ sports teams will remain a trump card for the pay TV broadcaster).
Today, his prophesy seems a lot more real.
Big ISP to follow?
Keep watching this space.
The head of one of the Big Five ISPs told NBR he was seriously considering launching a new service that would let customers beat geo-blocking.
If FYX doesn't run into any flak, expect him to seriously consider making a run.