Support for action against Slingshot's Netflix access

FIGHTING BACK: CallPlus chief executive Mark Callander maintains the company is not breaking the law.

FIGHTING BACK: CallPlus chief executive Mark Callander maintains the company is not breaking the law.

The Film and Video Labelling Body is backing a decision to consider prosecuting internet provider Slingshot.

The  Office of Film and Literature Classification said last week it was considering legal action against the CallPlus-owned provider over the access it was providing to blocked overseas internet television services such as Netflix.

The access came through Slingshot's free GlobalMode service.

TROUBLE: Slingshot's GlobalMode service gives Kiwis access to Netflix, but could see the CallPlus-owned internet ...
Reuters

TROUBLE: Slingshot's GlobalMode service gives Kiwis access to Netflix, but could see the CallPlus-owned internet provider prosecuted.

The Film and Video Labelling Body, an incorporated society whose members include the likes of Sony, Universal, Paramount, Spark and The Warehouse, does most of the legwork involved in issuing labels to non-R-rated films.

Operations manager Sharon Rhodes said it expressed concern to the Office of Film and Literature Classification about online services bypassing the New Zealand labelling system early this year, but had not specifically mentioned Slingshot or GlobalMode.

Spark, which launched online television service Lightbox in September, had raised concerns with the labelling body last year, she said. "I brought it up at our annual meeting in May and members were pleased to see it was something we were looking into."

Rhodes said she agreed with the chief censor's view that Slingshot had breached the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act by offering GlobalMode as a means for New Zealanders to access services such as Netflix.

Office of Film and Literature Classification spokesman Henry Talbot said neither the office nor chief censor Andrew Jack had been approached by any third parties, including the labelling body, asking it to look into issues relating to practices by Slingshot "or any other companies".

CallPlus chief executive Mark Callander has maintained the company was not breaking the law and said yesterday that it had no plans to withdraw GlobalMode, reiterating that the position taken by the Office of Film and Literature Classification was "strange". He last week voiced suspicions commercial rivals might have lobbied for the legal threat.

Rhodes said there were "a lot of providers that do fulfil their job and get all their publications rated and classified and it is important that there is an even playing field for all distributors that ensures the public are not able to access films that are not suitable for viewing".

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"We agree with chief censor's opinion that [Slingshot] is offering for supply publications that have not been classified, some of which we believe are objectionable," she said.

Canterbury law professor Ursula Cheer has said any prosecution of Slingshot would be a "test case". The outcome would hinge on whether Slingshot's decision to actively promote GlobalMode as a means to access overseas television programming meant it had lost the "safe harbour" protections in the Act that usually shield internet providers from prosecution for the content they carry.

Any prosecution case would be that Slingshot was not just passing stuff on like a post office, and instead had "a business built around saying 'here's our service we can stream this stuff to you'," she said.

 - Stuff

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