UK Court Finds That Simply Linking To Infringing Videos Is Not Infringing

from the took-a-while-though dept

We've seen more than a few lawsuits over the years by the entertainment industry against various sites that merely link to infringing content. The entertainment industry likes to make the claim that this is inducing infringement, but if you're just pointing to a bunch of YouTube videos, it's difficult to see how that should be considered infringement at all. In one such case, over in the UK, a site called tv-links.co.uk, after years battling this in court, was found not to have infringed on the copyrights of movie studios. The case was brought by FACT, the "Federation Against Copyright Theft," but had little evidence of any actual infringement being done by the site, who merely linked to videos found on YouTube, Veoh, DailyMotion and other sites.

FACT originally claimed that the site "facilitated" copyright infringement on the internet, despite that not being a part of UK law. Eventually, the official charges were "Conspiracy to Defraud and breaches of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act," which is quite similar to what OiNK's admin was charged with. And just like how OiNK's Alan Ellis was found not guilty, the court has sided with TV links, noting that it didn't actually infringe on anyone's copyrights directly. Of course, this still took years of having to fight it out in court and a ton of resources -- some of which were frozen by a "financial restraining order" during the case itself.

So while it's great that TV Links prevailed in the end, it does show how the decks are usually stacked again those doing perfectly legal things. If the entertainment industry does decide to sue, you're basically facing a huge, costly and painful legal battle, no matter how strong your case is. The system is weighted way too heavily in favor of the entertainment industry, such that they can bully sites they don't like into compliance in many cases, even if they're legal. It's great that TV Links was able to make it through the process, but many other sites don't even have the chance -- and that's why these kinds of lawsuits keep showing up.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 7:29am

    Huh - I didn't even realize tvlinks was fighting! If I remember rightly they were a mom-and-pop who had their home office raided. Good on them for standing up against what must have seemed like insurmountable odds!

    I'm curious though: if the courts could show that the curators of a link site were themselves partially or wholly responsible for uploading and maintaining the video collection on YouTube/Megavideo/what-have-you, how would that effect the outcome of a case like this?

     

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    RD, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 8:26am

    So, by that logic..

    Good to see a court get this right, finally.

    So, by the logic of Big Media Corp and its supporters (shilld, TAM, etc), that means if I am on a street corner, and I talk to someone and POINT to another street corner and say "there are drug dealers there", that means *I* am guilty of the same crime, right? I mean, isnt that what linking is, pointing to ANOTHER PLACE that has something. If that something is infringing or illegal, why would *I* be guilty of a crime for merely saying "look over there, there is something there"??

     

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      Sneeje (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 9:23am

      Re: So, by that logic..

      Well, to be fair, the issue these others seem to have is with the fact that these sites are monetizing the content--meaning they are getting ad-based (or other) revenue by simply referential links. Alternatively they argue that they are taking credit (explicitly or implicitly) for the referenced content.

      The problem is that the latter arguments cloud the base issue of infringement with unrelated topics.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 11:00am

        Re: Re: So, by that logic..

        "Well, to be fair, the issue these others seem to have is with the fact that these sites are monetizing the content-"

        - Is that fair?
        Should the yellow pages be held responsible for unwanted activity at places which they provide a reference to?

         

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          Sneeje (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 11:05am

          Re: Re: Re: So, by that logic..

          No, not at all. I'm agreeing with you. I was just trying to point out the reason why I think others argue they do--I believe they conflate infringement with other issues.

           

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 9:27am

      Re: So, by that logic..

      The difference is that the intarwebs are scary.

       

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      chris (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 10:01am

      Re: So, by that logic..

      that means if I am on a street corner, and I talk to someone and POINT to another street corner and say "there are drug dealers there", that means *I* am guilty of the same crime, right?

      yes. absolutely. in fact, pointing to drug dealers is far worse than the actual dealing of drugs because while there may be thousands of anonymous drug dealers that are hard to track down, there is only one you and you are calling attention to yourself, which makes you a convenient target.

      i'm glad that we finally understand one another.

       

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    David T, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 8:44am

    The problem is with the incentives

    In a battle between an established market incumbent and an upstart innovator threatening the status quo, there is a financial incentive for the establishment to sue regardless of wither or not they have a case.

    The process should be changed to make the cost of losing a lawsuit significantly greater than never having filed the suit in the first place. Such change would modify the current bias to sue first, ask later to something more rational.

     

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    ant anti mike, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 8:53am

    p2pnet decision last year said same thing

    aka are you an adult of some panzy that needs spoon feeding is basically what the judge is saying
    if your an adult its your choices that determine your life

     

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    ant anti mike, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 9:22am

    of = or

    ya title correction in body

     

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    bishboria (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 10:01am

    setting the precedent

    It looks to me like the result of this court case has now set the precedent in the UK for other sites that may link to content, such as torrent trackers. Since those sites don't host the content, only link to it, they shouldn't get sued either now.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 10:18am

      Re: setting the precedent

      Good luck finding a judge who will actually bother to understand how torrents/trackers/etc. work.

       

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    farooge (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 10:10am

    It's not the entertainment industry

    It's the BAR (or whatever that's called over there)

    Why do we let these people regulate themselves?

    These types of tactics (bankrupting - or at the very least, ongoing, systemic, harassment) have been admitted to in hushed tones for so long it's developed into a tornado. Add to that the shameful behavior on the criminal side of things when an election is near and you have a profession that is simply broken (as in - 'the sink goes too' broken).

    We all already know it, now let's get to fixing it.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 10:32am

    Everything on the net is linked, one way or another. It's one big network..

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 10:40am

      Re:

      And all this time, I thought it was pneumatic tube system created during the Eisenhower Administration.

       

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    Cory Baker, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:36pm

    Hypocrisy

    Plain and simple hypocrisy. The vast majority of FACT's directors (Sony, 20th Century Fox, Disney, NBCU, Warner Bros) have contracts with BlinkX.com which is a video search engine that links to vast amounts of infringing content (check out their movie section - http://tv.blinkx.com/movies).

    Doesn't seem to bother them that BlinkX is linking does it?

    Also what the hell is FACT (Ltd), a private company owned by the MPAA, doing claiming the cost of this prosecution back from the UK taxpayer!

    FACT - ripping off the UK public one case at a time.

     

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    SteveD (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 1:48am

    Precedent

    'If the entertainment industry does decide to sue, you're basically facing a huge, costly and painful legal battle, no matter how strong your case is.'

    I don't know very much about the legal system, but now a few cases have been decided won't these work as precedent for future cases?

    It should in future require either a higher standard of proof to bring a prosecution, or risk the charge being thrown out. Legal Aid is more readily availiable in the UK then the US, so fighting the case shouldn't be too expensive.

    Also I think both cases have been prosecuted as criminal cases rather then civil cases due to the 'defrauding' charge. That limits the degree to which the entertainment industry can throw lots of money against the defendant.

     

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    Bert Backatya, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 12:26pm

    No Precedent

    Its not a precedent, it is a ruling from a Crown Court Judge which is a local court. It is persuausive as it is the first ruling on a website using this defence (EC Directive S17) but it is not a binding judgement - another Judge could go the other way if he felt like it (or if he had "the chat" over a cigar and a whisky in the old boys club).

    If FACT appeal this to the High Court and they lose again then it is a binding precedent difficult for any Judge to ignore in future cases.

    As for Legal Aid and relying on that to pay your defence costs? Forget it. The Legal Aid system in the UK has been systematically depleted to the point that very few good barristers can afford to work on the LA rate. This is the repugnant issue with FACT using Private Prosecutions - a defendant with no money has to make do with below par representation while FACT can bring in the most expensive team in the country to crush the defendant. Then, and this is the bit where you say "WHAT!", the way the private prosecution system is set FACT can claim back ALL of their legal costs for their expensive team whether they win OR lose. In effect FACT have an indemnity using this procedure which means they can launch an abusive prosecution against an individual knowing that the mere existence of the prosecution damages the person psychologically and financially. It is a weapon that costs them nothing.

     

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