Today, and following this report in the Guardian, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) reported the arrest of the proprietor of tv-links.co.uk:
"A man aged 26 from Cheltenham was arrested on Thursday (18th October) in connection with offences relating to the facilitation of copyright infringement on the Internet. The arrest came during an operation by officers from Gloucestershire County Council Trading Standards Service working with investigators from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (‘FACT’) and Gloucestershire Police. The man has been released pending further enquiries.
"The site, TV Links (www.tv-links.co.uk), was providing links to illegal film content that has been camcorded from within a cinema and then uploaded to the Internet. The site additionally provided links to TV shows that were also being illegally distributed."
TV-links.co.uk is a website containing a list of links to downloads of TV programmes and films, hosted on other websites. The site is no longer available, but the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine has preserved this copy from July 2007.
The involvement of local Trading Standards services in a copyright infringement case presumably follows from the new powers and resources granted Trading Standards in April this year, after Andrew Gowers recommended they be given the power to enforce copyright infringement laws in his 2006 review of intellectual property law.
Now seems an apt moment to reflect, therefore, on the progress of some of Gowers' other recommendations. While at least one of the report's enforcement recommendations has already made it into the light of day (and onto the streets of Gloucestershire), all of his recommendations around flexibility remain on the drawing board. A quick call to the UK Intellectual Property Office this morning confirms that consultation around implementing the recommendations for format-shifting (recommendation 8), library use (recommendation 10) and parody and pastiche (recommendation 12), originally expected in May, still has no firm date, but could happen "towards the end of November".
But back to enforcement. The Open Rights Group spoke with Gloucestershire police this afternoon, and their spokesperson confirmed that the man referred to in the FACT press release had been arrested under suspicion of a violation of Section 92 of the Trademarks Act ("Unauthorised use of trade mark, et c. in relation to goods"), which reads:
(1) A person commits an offence who with a view to gain for himself or another, or with intent to cause loss to another, and without the consent of the proprietor—
- applies to goods or their packaging a sign identical to, or likely to be mistaken for, a registered trade mark
- sells or lets for hire, offers or exposes for sale or hire or distributes goods which bear, or the packaging of which bears, such a sign, or
- has in his possession, custody or control in the course of a business any such goods with a view to the doing of anything, by himself or another, which would be an offence under paragraph (b).
(2) A person commits an offence who with a view to gain for himself or another, or with intent to cause loss to another, and without the consent of the proprietor—
- applies a sign identical to, or likely to be mistaken for, a registered trade mark to material intended to be used—
- for labelling or packaging goods,
- as a business paper in relation to goods, or
- for advertising goods, or
- uses in the course of a business material bearing such a sign for labelling or packaging goods, as a business paper in relation to goods, or for advertising goods, or
- has in his possession, custody or control in the course of a business any such material with a view to the doing of anything, by himself or another, which would be an offence under paragraph (b).
Until the police have concluded their investigations, the exact connection between this piece of law and "the facilitation of copyright infringement" will be up for speculation. You can read some speculation here, here, here and here. We will keep on this story and keep you updated.
The Open Rights Group does not condone the download of copyright-infringing materials. However, sites like tv-links.co.uk wouldn't exist (and according to Alexa's "daily reach" measure, receive more traffic than channel4.com) if there wasn't demand for the material, demand the industry is not meeting. Perhaps if industry released their content online in a timely manner, and for a reasonable price, it would profit from this lust for downloading. Indeed, as reported over at Techcrunch, today's news comes hot on the heels of an announcement of serious "seven-figure" funding for Tape it Off the Internet (Tioti.com), who plan to invest the cash in extending the service to other platforms, including TV download services from household-name broadcasters.