After three years and three court battles, controversial electronic program guide IceTV this morning emerged victorious with a High Court win against Channel Nine.

IceTV and Channel Nine have been engaged in a legal battle since May 2006 when Channel Nine alleged Ice TV’s electronic program guide (EPG) for digital free-to-air television infringed copyright on its television schedule.

IceTV at the time were trying to raise capital through a public float. That had to be scrapped — scaring investors away — as a result of Nine’s action, which occurred shortly after Nine acquired HWW, a TV guide aggregator and supplier to print and online media.

Smarthouse reports IceTV CEO Colin O’Brian is pessimistic about claiming damages but believes costs should be covered.

“Nine were real bastards in that they deliberately took action against us knowing full well that we were days away from floating the Company. They also knew that we had investors lined up to invest in the company,” O’Brian said.

Fairfax’s “Gadgets on the go” blogger Adam Turner says Nine’s claims were ridiculous because an EPG is just a list of times and television shows and you can’t legally copyright a list of facts.

“Considering how inaccurate both the television schedule and the train timetable is these days, I’m surprised the lawyers don’t claim that both are actually a work of fiction and are thus entitled to copyright protection,” Turner said.

Most commentators say the IceTV win is a triumph for choice. LifeHacker says:

The copyright argument has long stymied the development of decent electronic program guides (EPGs) in Australia, so this hopefully might spell an eventual end to the madness, though Freeview’s apparent determination to stop other set-top boxes accessing its forthcoming guide suggests that stupidity might still reign for a while.

In a statement IceTV said:

Since its incorporation in 2005, IceTV has had one aim: to give TV viewers the freedom to record and manage their TV shows as they choose. To record what they want, skip what they want and watch it at a time that suits them. No longer do viewers have to watch their chosen shows when the networks tell them or to watch content they would rather skip through. IceTV gives them this choice.

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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