When is a telco a media company?
US operator T-Mobile is being sued by a bulk SMS firm, EZ Texting, for blocking its short-code text service for customers of a medical marijuana clinic.
Its defense is that it has the right to reject messages in its SMS marketing channel. Specifically, it argues that it has the “discretion to require pre-approval for any short-code marketing campaigns” in order to protect itself from “potentially illegal, fraudulent, or offensive marketing campaigns.”
In other words, it claims the same rights as a TV network or newspaper, who are free to block ads on the same grounds.
Fair enough – the bulk SMS is a marketing communications channel. But unlike TV or print ads, customers have chosen to receive these messages.
And while T-Mobile may be happy to be treated as a media company in this context, you can be certain it won’t be shy about putting on its telecom hat when the time suits. Next time it faces a piracy suit from a music label it will claim that its role is to deliver bits of all kinds, regardless of their contents.