Customers of FLOW and C3 may find themselves unable to stream movies or access certain content since the internet providers have begun to block some copyrighted content flowing into the Cayman Islands.
C3 confirmed that the block, which came into effect last week, remains in effect. FLOW did not respond to queries from The Cayman Reporter by press time.
Explaining the reasoning behind its decision in a statement, C3 said, “As a licensed content provider, C3 is obligated by the content owners to mitigate any unauthorised use of the content we are legally providing in the market. To this end we are blocking the IP addresses of these pirated content providers. C3will remain vigilant in blocking future IP addresses conducting these pirate activities.”
In addition to providing internet service, C3 is also a provider of television content services locally. FLOW is also a provider of both internet and television content services in the local market.
Sandra Hill, founder of RoCay – a company that provides internet TV using the Roku online streaming device, has been vocal about her strong disagreement with the move taken by some local internet providers.
“Consumers should be alarmed. What if next week they decided to block Netflix or something else they deem to be inappropriate. The bottom line is it’s not illegal in this jurisdiction so what remit do they believe they have?” she asked. “Furthermore, how can a telecom company decide to implement a law that IF it existed would be for the government agency to enforce or the company whose rights are supposedly breached? It is an extreme case of overreaching.”
However, in its statement C3 stated the strategy of restricting unauthorised use of licensed content is practiced or being pursued by providers around the world, including Netflix.
ICTA Managing Director Alee Fa’amoe reiterated that wireless providers in other Caribbean territories have taken similar actions, which may affect selected mobile phone applications.
He noted that implications of the block are that some broadband customers may not be able to reach certain servers or to access certain content via the internet.
C3 Director Randy Merren told The Cayman Reporter that, “RoCay and other unlicensed companies selling subscription TV services in the Cayman Islands are using our network to facilitate to breach of copyright laws to which the Cayman Islands are a party to through the UK- we do not view this activity as a breach of privacy. If the companies providing this service want to continue to partake in this activity they can apply to the ICTA for licenses to build their own infrastructure, but should not expect to use another company’s infrastructure to facility their activities.”
Mr Merren noted that his company has not discussed the block with the ICTA but added that the ICTA is well aware of companies like RoCay pirating copyrighted content.
“On numerous occasions they were asked to do something about this by all the local Licensed TV Subscription Providers and the companies that have the licensing rights for some of the content being pirated,” said Mr Merren.
Mr Fa’amoe said the authority is currently reviewing the matter and gathering information in regards to the decisions of its licensees to block some content.
Mrs Hill said she believes people’s privacy is being breached in order for the internet providers to know precisely what to block and urged that it should concern every person in Cayman.
However, Mr Merren explained that consumers were not warned of the block because C3 does not monitor the Internet Protocols (IP’s) its customers visit.
The ICTA could not confirm which party is right in terms of breach of privacy.
Mr Fa’amoe explained, “At this point, until we learn more about how the blocking is done, we cannot say with any certainty if consumer privacy is being impacted.”
But he noted, “To the best of our knowledge, neither the authority nor its licensees are granted police powers with respect to copyright protection under any current law in force in the Cayman Islands.”
Dr Victor Look Loy, another person who has expressed concerns about the internet providers’ decision, had some strong comments for the ICTA in his letter to the Minister of Financial Services and Commerce Hon Wayne Panton.
He wrote to the minister that he was opposed to any legislation that would impact the ability of residents of the Cayman Islands from streaming any content over the internet. He also included access to satellite television services in his protest.
“We as a nation have had to endure many years as what can mildly be described as extortion and bullying by our Telecom provider(s). I am sure you recall people who were forced to stop using their internet phone to call overseas and then forced to apologise for using it and then forced to promise not to use it again before their telephone service would be re-connected, “ Dr Look Loy wrote.
He further stated that, “I also recall analog cell phones being sold in Cayman for twice and three times the price of the same phone in Jamaica and touted as state of the art, when digital phones were the norm elsewhere. Please do not forget the valiant and sometimes brutal and bloody battle fought by Dr Linford Pearson to have us released from our stranglehold that was aided and abetted by an impotent complacent ICTA of that time.”