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.