The reason? Python-iView, available on the web for three years, enabled those who could not use the ABC's iview program - which is for streaming content - to download and view past programs. The ABC's iview depends on the proprietary Flash application; Python-iView caters to all those who cannot use Flash.
According to the letter (PDF) sent to Visser, the ABC's objection was to his making its iview content downloadable without permission; this, the letter claimed, could put him in violation of section 101(1) of the Australian Copyright Act.
Further, the letter claimed that Visser could be in breach of section 116AP of the Act since Python-iView appeared to circumvent DRM and security measures that the ABC had put in place to protect its content.
"They refused. Not because they don't like the idea, I'm sure, but it is in the 'too hard basket' for them, legally."
Is it a coincidence that the ABC's cease and desist letter was sent just before it broadcast the Paralympics live? Or that it was just before the ABC put online the new series of Dr Who - and did so before it was broadcast on TV? One can only guess.
As to users who cannot watch the iview content, the ABC has this sop: "We understand the demand for an Android app, and are working towards achieving official Android support following a planned redevelopment of iview in HTML5."
And thereafter, there is a long tirade about how the complexity and fragmentation of Android has prevented the good people at the ABC from acting.
By couching things in these words, the ABC is giving itself a convenient excuse for the delay. While the Android operating system is officially put out by Google, given the nature of the system every manufacturer can make changes in many components. Hence, to talk of "official support" is silly.
The ABC is run on public money. For years, it has catered to just a segment of its audience through iview and not bothered about the rest. Android devices are not new - they have been around for a while, and outnumber the devices from Apple two to one. In fact, the latest IDC figures for the second quarter show that 66 per cent of the devices sold were Android while 16 per cent were from Apple.
During the Google-Oracle case in April-May this year statistics were provided to the court to the effect that every day, 300,000 Android devices were being registered with Google. One needs to bear in mind, that unlike the iPhone, Android devices do not need to be registered with Google to have a source for downloading apps; there are plenty of other sources and good ones, too.
But yet, at the end of 2012, we have only excuses from the ABC when it comes to catering to those who opt for open-source or free software platforms.
I asked Visser if he had done anything which could not be done with an ordinary VCR or PVR and whether he was aware of any electronics dealer or an owner of a VCR receiving a notice from the ABC. "...with Python-iView, the end result is exactly the same as recording a show with a VCR or PVR such as a TiVo. Except that if you use a PVR it's even higher quality!" he replied.
"Using a VCR to record a show is perfectly legal under Australian law, so long as you only watch the show once. There are no time restrictions.
"The only reason the ABC have taken this approach with Python-iView users is because their upstream rights-holders have mandated it specially for online streaming. This is silly, and I'm sure the ABC knows it is as well, but for them having a show available online with restrictions outweighs having no shows available online at all."
There is nothing on record to indicate that the ABC has contacted prominent Australian electronics retailers like Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi and asked either of them to stop selling PVRs. (VCRs are no longer on the shelves.) No member of the public, as far as my knowledge goes, has received a similar letter.
Yet, like me, I'm sure that there are hundreds of thousands of Australian residents who have ABC content on either digital media or on VHS tape, recorded long ago, and viewed numerous times. The ABC lawyers are unlikely to do anything about the bleeding obvious.
Neither is the ABC likely to send a takedown notice to the code repository GitHub where someone has placed a copy of the Python-iView code. It is American-owned and the ABC is unlikely to want to tangle with the Yanks.
When Visser was asked whether he had reminded the ABC that it was running on public money and that Android devices now outnumber iOS devices by a ratio of 2 to 1, he responded: "I have not reminded them of this fact (Python-iView supports many, many platforms - part of the point of me creating it was to reduce favouritism for a particular platform), but my users have not held back from making this clear.
"As I said in my press Q&A, I had actions, the ABC still only have words. The ABC are taking a 'not invented here' approach, which I find to be unacceptable."
I wanted to find out the ABC's latest take on this event but there is no media contact listed on the corporation's website. After hunting around for a while, I found a media release on iview and wrote to Dylan Brookes, the individual mentioned as a contact in this media release.
His response was short: "Regarding your request, unfortunately we are not able to provide further information about the Python-view (sic) matter at this time."