Several businesses, including Canadian business Android TV Boxes Canada, have been marketing products that they claim will allow customers to access free television for life, with no monthly bill, simply by purchasing a single “TV box.”
These products are being marketed as “revolutionary” boxes that will “kill cable” or change the way that the television market works. Rather than paying for cable every month, customers will supposedly be able to buy the box, access the Internet, and watch any television show they want for free.
The boxes use the Android operating system and allow users to stream content off of the Internet. Therefore, they are more similar to services such as Netflix than they are to cable, as they are a streaming service. However, unlike Netflix, users do not have to pay a monthly fee, and have access to a wider variety of television and film, as they stream from a variety of different sources.
The reason why these boxes can offer so much content without a fee is because the sources that provide access to the content often do so without permission or licensing. While Netflix and cable have to pay for the rights to provide the content they do, thus requiring user fees, these boxes access some websites that air content without authorization.
Of course, if the content being watched is not properly licensed or authorized, there are many potential legal implications that come from using the boxes. While they offer “unlimited free TV,” they do so at the cost of being involved in potentially illegal or unethical activity.
In discussing the legal implications, CBC reports that box users and retailers (at least in Canada) are not technically breaking the law, as streaming is considered a “grey area” in terms of Copyright law. Watching a stream of a video is treated differently than downloading or uploading a video, and it is therefore more difficult to penalize, so users have the potential to make legal use of the boxes.
However, while streaming videos may not be entirely illegal, an ethical issue arises when users recognize that the websites that upload and offer the content are indeed breaking the law. Therefore, while users may not be breaking the law themselves, they are interacting with and using the services of people who do break the law in order to provide the content. CBC suggests that the only thing preventing these companies from facing serious legal consequences is because they operate outside of Canada.
The use of unauthorized streaming sites also means that the content delivered by these boxes can also mostly be accessed using any sort of laptop or desktop computer that connects to the Internet. Therefore, purchasing one of these boxes could be argued as being unnecessary considering that hooking up a laptop to a television using an HDMI cable could arguably achieve much of the same effect. However, proponents of the box argue that it is worth it for the convenience, as well as the consolidation of these services into one place.
Another potential issue with the box is the fact that law and regulations change throughout time. Laws are particularly likely to change in cases related to technology and intellectual property, which are facing new technological challenges and complications every day.
Because of this potential change, the box’s promise to “break cable” with “free TV for life” is questionable. There is a chance for laws surrounding streaming to change in a way that prevents the kind of unauthorized streaming from unlicensed sources that is currently a “grey area” due to loopholes and technicalities surrounding the process of streaming.
For anyone interested in trying out one of these boxes, one of the most prominent Canadian options is the “Free Tv Box,” available at freetvbox.ca. The US alternative is the “Cable Killer,” available at cable-killer.com