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Harvey Norman Rethinks Selling McTiVia TV Pirate After Scrutiny

By Tony Ibrahim | Tuesday | 13/09/2011

Harvey Norman is considering dropping its McTiVia set-top box after an article featured in The Australian recognised it has technology that enables Australians to stream US-only shows onto their TVs.

Click to enlarge
McTiVia: TV Pirate
As of June, Harvey Norman has been selling the device exclusively at $299, which transmits programs downloaded on to a computer to a television set so they can be watched on a big screen.

The problem with this device though, is that it offers a voucher that promotes streaming directly from the USA, circumventing copyright laws by granting access to overseas television content.

It reads: "stream direct from the USA!...tailor your home entertainment system to meet your lifestyle and gain access to a global library of previously geographically restricted media to your TV."

According to The Australian, media scrutiny motivated Harvey Norman's Chief Executive, Gerry Harvey, to personally inquire into the product's sale and recognised it may impinge copyright infringements. 

Harvey Norman's senior electronics brand manager, Gary Brown, claimed the company was not promoting the product's ability to evade geo-blocking.

"We are simply selling it as a device that allows you to network your computer and I don't think we've sold one box under the proviso of circumventing any network or access to content or whatever," Brown said.

The streaming is enabled through a trial voucher located within the McTiVia's box, which grants access to a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The VPN masks a person's IP address, granting them access to American TV sites, the likes of Hulu and Netflix.

Harvey Norman acknowledged the product could still stay on shelves if they simply removed the voucher, but said it would leave the decision up to the manufacturer.

"I will take it to our product team and discuss how we address the flyer contained in the box," said Brown.

According to the device's distributor, VPN services are legal in Australia.

VPN usage in Australia is still a grey area, with the technology and its implications still being understood.

Ovum IT analyst Tim Renowden pointed out that perhaps the McTiVia's technology was as much at blame as the delay in television shows being broadcasted locally.
"The emergence of VPN services marketed as a way of accessing online content by avoiding geographical locks, shows that some people in Australia are becoming frustrated with the lag between shows screening overseas and locally," Renowden said.

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