Whither the Future of Internet Streaming and Time-shifting? Revisiting the Rights of Reproduction and Communication to the Public in Copyright Law after Aereo

Cheng Lim SAW, Singapore Management University
Warren B. CHIK, Singapore Management University


New forms of communication technology often pose challenges to the copyright regime and have necessitated the rewriting of the scope of the exclusive rights and exceptions by the legislature, and, in some cases, by the courts in common law countries (as well as the Court of Justice of the European Union). These issues have arisen in different categories of digital technology, albeit with the same objective of streamlining and simplifying the delivery of copyright works to consumers. These categories include file storage and transfer operations offered by Peer-to-Peer technology, the space- and time-shifting functions of the early video and audio recording products, user-generated and industry content deliverable via new media streaming platforms, the ‘live’ streaming and time-shifting services offered by remote and wireless digital recording systems, file storage and sharing digital lockers and cloud technology. This article will examine the legality of Internet streaming and time-shifting technologies under copyright law, specifically in relation to the rights of ‘reproduction’ and ‘communication to the public’, through a comparative analysis of the jurisprudence in leading jurisdictions in recent times. Although the decisions are not always consistent, they do provide some helpful guidance in our assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various arguments made on both sides of the divide as well as of the prevailing judicial sentiment towards new technologies. In light of the continuing legal uncertainty faced by such technologies, the authors also offer suggestions as regards legislative amendments and alternative business models to ensure their continued existence in this harsh and highly competitive digital environment.