Telefe threatens with legal action against Cuevana

Juan Pablo Conti | 19-11-2011

Argentine broadcaster Telefe is said to be considering suing Cuevana, a website that has gained notoriety for becoming Latin America's most successful over-the-top (OTT) player by allegedly infringing intellectual property laws.

Argentine newspaper La Nación revealed that lawyers from Telefe (a TV channel owned by Spanish group Telefónica) and Cuevana held an informal meeting in which attempts were made to resolve the issue amicably.

Such attempts not only appear to have failed but the Telefe lawyers have been quoted by their Cuevana counterparts as having threatened them with launching a legal case in the next few days: "We warned you several times; you had your chance," the Telefe lawyers said according to Cuevana sources cited by La Nación.

Telefe argues that Cuevana not only facilitates the illegal VOD streaming of some if its TV content but also flagrantly simulcasts the Buenos Aires channel's live TV output on the portal. A Cuevana spokesperson said that the linear Telefe feed was no longer available on the site – admitting that at some point it was.

At the beginning of this year, Telefónica became one of the first companies to launch a legal OTT video service in the country, called OnVideo. Other telephony players soon followed suit, including Telecom Argentina with ArnetPlay and Grupo Telmex's Claro with Ideas Entretenimiento. Netflix, of course, is the other big contender in this sector.

But the single biggest obstacle that these OTT companies have faced so far is the success that Cuevana has enjoyed. The start-up does not charge a penny, offers most Hollywood blockbusters and popular TV series (some of them available just hours following their US airing, complete with Spanish subtitles) and already boasts 12 million unique monthly users.

The Cuevana developers have insisted time and time again that – by indexing content, not uploading it directly to any servers of their own – all they do is simply help Internet users connect with video content that is already available on the web anyway.

Now, it appears, the time has come to convince the judges that such a model is valid.