Injunction contingent on outcome of main legal dispute

BERLIN — A German court on Tuesday placed a temporary injunction on free software that would allow Internet users to share TV programming with millions of users worldwide.

German paybox Premiere filed suit against the Koblenz-based developer of the technology, TC Unterhaltungselektronik, in February.

The feevee is haunted by visions of PC users redistributing its pricey blockbuster titles and other programming around the globe free of charge.

Premiere won an injunction prohibiting TCU from distributing the software. But Hamburg justice officials said the injunction, which is based on German copyright law, is contingent on the outcome of the main legal dispute between TCU and Premiere. TCU also was prohibited from advertising its software as a way to obtain free pay TV.

To use the software — named Cybersky TV after Guido Ciburski, its inventor and a TCU exec — a TV is hooked up to a computer, which rebroadcasts the current TV show to anyone on the Internet who logs in and has a fast broadband connection.

The signals arrive with a time lag of five to 10 seconds. In a peer-to-peer network, each personal computer helps distribute portions of the signal and there is no central server.

Observers reckon the technology could have a huge effect on TV viewing — and not just in Germany.

The software will allow viewers around the world almost immediate access to shows they otherwise might have to wait months to see.

“The patented Cybersky is, at the moment, the only TV alternative to cable and satellite transmission,” reads a TCU description of the product.

In contrast to cable and satellite, however, Cybersky is not limited by region and is capable of two-way transmission.

But like music service Napster, Cybersky TV faces a potential deluge of lawsuits from around the world.

TCU maintains it is not to blame if users rebroadcast Premiere in breach of their contracts with the channel.

TCU also is behind the controversial Telefairy, a TiVo-like set-top box that skips commercial breaks; it triggered a five-year legal battle with broadcasting giant RTL that TCU won last year.

(Deutsche Presse Agentur contributed to this report.)

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