Someone at Samsung must have taken the “Free the TV” branding of its recent app contest a bit too literally: The CE maker announced this week that one of the German winners of the app contest is Bong.tv, a controversial cloud DVR service that lets users record TV shows from some 30 German networks and then stream or download the recordings.
Bong.tv is one of several German cloud DVR services. Paying users can schedule recordings online, then download them as unprotected MP4 files. The service also offers an iOS (s aapl) app, and now wants to extend its services to TV app platforms. Check out the video embedded below for a demo of the Bong.tv app running on a Samsung TV:
Samsung apparently liked the service a lot, and promptly named Bong.tv the third-prize winner of its German Free the TV app challenge. The only problem is that Bong.tv doesn’t have any contracts with rights holders, and its users don’t need pay TV subscriptions to access the service. In fact, networks have been battling services like these for years. RTL group secured a preliminary injunction against Bong.tv earlier this month, forcing the service to take RTL out of its channel line-up.
The German IT news website heise.de was the first one to notice Thursday how controversial Samsung’s decision is — and promptly forced the TV maker to back-pedal. A PR agency working for Samsung had told heise that Bong.tv would be made available on its devices “in the coming months,” but Samsung has since rescinded that promise and instead stated that it hasn’t decided “if and when” it will add the app.
Bong.tv itself hasn’t issued any statements about the whole affair. In reaction to the injunction against it earlier this month, Bong.tv said it has been trying to work with TV networks like RTL, but that all its suggestions fell on deaf ears. Bong.tv argued it’s merely providing legal time-shifting services, and added:
“We are determined to defend the legality of our service as a contemporary video recorder in court, just like Sony (s sne) did when it introduced the first video recorder ever.”
Legal issues surrounding cloud DVR services aside, the faux pas shows that CE makers increasingly have to walk a fine line between innovation and the interests of rights holders. The emergence of platforms like Google (s GOOG) TV that offer access to the entire web will likely mean that we’re going to see many more conflicts like these in the months and years ahead.
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