News Site About Popcorn Time App Goes To Court To Get Back Seized Domain

from the copyright-as-censorship dept

Over and over again, we’re told that copyright is not about censorship, and yet time and time again we see how it is used to censor speech quite frequently. Back in March, we wrote about the somewhat horrifying bit of news that a news website that posted stories about the app Popcorn Time had been seized by Norwegian police. The “crime” according to the police was that the site — which never hosted the app at all — did link to some other sites where you could download Popcorn Time. This is so far removed from the actual infringement as to be crazy. Yes, some users of Popcorn Time use the software to infringe on copyright-covered works. No one doubts that. But the software itself — like a VCR — can also be used for legitimate purposes as well. If a user infringes, go after the user. But the software itself shouldn’t be targeted (even though it is). But, then you go another step removed to sites that host the app. And then a further step removed to a news site that links to sites that link to the software that a user might use to infringe.

And the police deemed that worthy of seizing? Even though the site also had a ton of news articles that would normally be considered protected expression?

I want to repeat this just to show how crazy it is. The police in Norway didn’t go after actual infringers, they went after a news site that links to sites that host an app that might be used to infringe. Oh, and they did it using an asset seizure procedure that has basically no due process prior to an entire news website disappearing. That’s messed up.

Apparently, Electronic Frontier Norway (EFN — which is unrelated but similar to the EFF here in the States) — and the Norwegian Unix User Group (NUUG) went to court over this, but had that rejected (perhaps reasonably) for lack of standing. However, TorrentFreak is reporting that the case is being appealed… but this time with the legal owner of the site:

With the new party the groups hope to have sufficient standing to have the case heard. In their appeal there?s a strong focus on the free speech element, and they hope the court will clarify when domain seizures are appropriate.

?We feel that this is an important case that addresses the limits of free speech,? EFN?s managing director Tom Fredrik Blenning tells TorrentFreak.

NUUG leader Hans-Petter Fjeld adds that the authorities shouldn?t be allowed to seize the domain name of a news site, which writes about open source software that by itself is not infringing.

?Part of what makes us upset is that the domain name of a news site about a piece of free software that has both legal and illegal uses, has been seized without judicial scrutiny,? Fjeld says.

This use of asset seizure to take down news sites that might be distantly related to infringement is extremely troubling. It’s happened in the US, including just recently returning some domains it had seized five years prior, without ever having any evidence of actual infringement associated with those news sites.

The idea that this form of blatant censorship is being used globally should be yet another warning of how copyright law is regularly abused for censorship.

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Comments on “News Site About Popcorn Time App Goes To Court To Get Back Seized Domain”

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Anonymous Coward says:

it isn’t the Norway police or any other police that wants to be stopped, it’s the entertainment industries themselves, the prosecutors who get ‘encouraged to get the police to act, it’s the politicians, the courts and the law makers who all also get ‘encouraged’ to get the legal wheels turning, but they all do it illegally!! and not a fucking thing is said, let alone done, because the whole world and his wife are so scared of losing the ‘encouragements’ that the industries supply so as to get all the illegal methods used while stopping those who are then deemed as acting illegally!! the whole fucking issue is screwed up from start to finish and because there was absolutely nothing done at the very beginning, again because of the ‘encouragements’ thrown around, the industries now, basically, rule the world and they will not stop until they have ruined every other business they can and the greatest distribution method known to man!! rather than being allowed to do this, to be allowed to continue to do this, everyone mentioned above sits back, thumbs up bums, brains in ‘give me the money’ mode (which is even worse than being in neutral!) and just counts the bank balances!! what a glorified fuck up the USA has commissioned!!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Stop the crazyness.

I’ve been persuaded by stories like this that perhaps the abolition of copyright is the only way to stop these people abusing us. They literally think that copyright enables the treatment of IDEAS as actual property. How else can you stop them? It’s not like they’re reasonable people who take the public interest into consideration, or anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

“If a user infringes, go after the user. But the software itself shouldn’t be targeted (even though it is).”

The reason why the software or website is targeted is that it is a whole lot easy to go after taking down one thing i.e. software or website for the infringement that users do then it is to go after 1000’s of users individually that commits the infringement which incurs way more money to go after the 1000’s of individuals than going after the software or website.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes, they are indeed the easy target. But the way you wrote your comment makes it sound as if you believe the Norwegian police simply made the obvious choice. If so, that’s some interesting reasoning you got going on there. Now let me try it out…

1) You manufacture cars.
2) People use those cars to commit criminal acts.
3) It is a “whole lot easier to go after taking down one thing” (i.e., you – the car manufacturer) than to go after 1000’s of criminals individually.

Wow! You’re absolutely right! It is a whole lot easier when you ignore whether or not someone is actually breaking the law and just prosecute whomever is the most convenient party that can be in any way associated with the with the crime.

Perhaps you should consider a career in law enforcement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike Masnick hates it when copyright law is enforced

Now that that’s out of the way, I wonder how long until we have stories about people being killed over copyright infringement and some company steps up to say “it’s still not enough, since the descendants of a creator get the rights for 300 years past the author’s death, so too should 300 years of a copyright infringer’s descendants be punished for his crimes. Anything less send too weak a deterrent and invites others to to the evil act of piracy!”

AEIO_ (profile) says:

Safe space

“Popcorn Time had been seized by Norwegian police.”

Well of course. You see, it’s all my doing. I’m fatally allergic to all corn products everywhere and I’m making myself a SAFE SPACE (only the world) so that I can breathe and live freely.

You: meh.

Monsanto / Bayer, you’re next. (I’m working up to my evil nemesis: Orville Redenbacher.)

Really, a friend of mine [Hi Lisa!] had it exactly right. She wanted to be a corporate lawyer — not to uphold the law, but to bend it in unusual ways so as to do her bidding.

“I’m going to take the site down; now I only need to find the best excuse to do so.”

(It’s not always about the money, sometimes it’s just about power. Money just helps out.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

"The light is better over here."

Sure they could go after the actual infringers, collecting evidence, going to court, presenting their evidence and getting a favorable verdict if the evidence is strong enough, but that takes work, time and money they’d really rather not spend. Easier by far to go after the tool and anyone who so much as mentions it, as the number of targets in that case is drastically smaller and the costs comparatively tiny.

Going after the tool also has the not-so-coincidental side-effect of killing off potential competition, as a tool that can be used for infringement can also be used for perfectly legitimate content/distribution that isn’t controlled by them, so killing off the tool is a win-win all around.

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