updated 10:25 am EST, Fri March 7, 2008
MobiTV Feeds for Sprint
Cellphone TV provider MobiTV broadcasts its TV streams in the clear over the Internet, visitors have found at mobile site HowardForums. A text file normally accessed by phones from Sprint and other American cellular providers contains clearly visible Internet addresses that can be played from any device capable of playing streaming 3GPP video, including computers. The discovery essentially bypasses the subscription fees required for the TV service, which otherwise costs $20 per month on top of an existing Sprint subscription.
The discovery has prompted a legal threat from MobiTV, which alleges that HowardForums' users are "hacking" its services and claims that posting links both to the file and to the feeds inside constitutes infringement of its service. The phone forum may be taken offline after a notice sent by MobiTV sent to the site's host.
However, the site's namesake owner Howard Chui has so far rejected these attempts. As MobiTV is using easily readable, unprotected resources, the administrator argues that there is no infringement involved. Sprint and other carriers should be more concerned that their TV provider has taken virtually no efforts to prevent users from easily accessing the streams for free, he says.
"It's like they're [running] a movie theater with see-through walls," Chui explains. "If you walk by you can see what's going on [even when] they don't want you to."