Bell aims to halt VMedia’s skinny basic package Roku app

Bell Media has sent a cease and desist letter threatening to take legal action against VMedia, a Canadian internet and IPTV provider that’s operated in Ontario for the last few years, if it does not remove Bell channels from its live TV service.

“This is the real deal,” said VMedia’s George Burger in an interview with CBC. “They’ve threatened an injunction against us.”

Bell’s statement to VMedia reads as follows:

“Please be advised that Bell Media has not authorized and does not authorize the distribution or retransmission by [VMedia] of any of its broadcast signals or speciality services, including but not limited to the CTV and CTV TWO signals. We therefore demand that VMedia immediately cease distributing or retransmitting any of Bell Media’s broadcast signals, speciality services or copyrighted programs. If this is not done by done by 11:59 p.m. E.T. on September 30th, 2016, Bell intends to take further action.”

In an interview with the CBC, Bell’s Emily Young Lee, says that “further action” consists of a court injunction to stop VMedia from operating, specifically citing the CTV and CTV 2 signals VMedia utilizes in its app, stating that doing so is a “clear copyright violation.”

VMedia’s new Roku service offers a ‘skinny’ basic cable package via an app located in the set-top box’s official store. Before this app’s release, accessing VMedia’s various services required a special set-top box and VMedia internet connection. This means that anyone with a Roku player and an internet connection can access 20 live television channels that include TV, CBC, Global and networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Many of these channels are also available for free over-the-air with an HD antenna.

VMedia argues that cable and satellite services are generally able to retransmit over-the-air signals, with Bell stating that VMedia’s IPTV app should not be considered a “retransmitter” because it is based on the internet.

With Bell’s ample number of lawyers and millions of dollars, it’s likely that despite VMedia’s valid claims regarding the Canadian Copyright act allowing OTA signals to be rebroadcast by licensed distributers, the small start-up will lose this battle if it makes its way into litigation.

The television watching landscape in Canada has rapidly evolved over the last few years and this is yet another example of incumbents trying to stave off inevitable innovation.

VMedia’s Roku app is priced at $17.85 CAD per month.

Related: VMedia’s IPTV service is coming to Roku devices in Canada