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October 22, 2007 | Becky Hogge

TV-links.co.uk - the story so far...

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.

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Comments (16)

  1. EDGEcase » P2P Crackdown?:
    Oct 23, 2007 at 10:50 PM

    [...] Friday was tv-links.co.uk being shut down (Jack Schofield’s and the Open Right Group comments), now today I find out about Oink, which was the first I’d heard about that site [...]

  2. Joe:
    Nov 21, 2007 at 11:07 AM

    Rumors have it that TV-Links.co.uk is returning.... I was wondering if this is true or if its just a rumor.

  3. Robbie Baggio:
    Oct 24, 2007 at 10:31 PM

    I'm really pissed off men..!! :( Linking is not illegal, hosting is... this is completely unfair. But don't worry, there are plenty of other sites that can perfectly replace tv-links. For example, i found http://www.sidereel.com they have almost all the tv series, tons of movies and music vids. There's also Dailymotion or Stage 6, thanks god they can't stop us..!! he he LOL

  4. Andres:
    Oct 23, 2007 at 10:33 AM

    Just a heads up. I think that the paragraph they are using is paragraph 3 of s92, which reads:

    "(3) 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—
    (a) makes an article specifically designed or adapted for making copies of a sign identical to, or likely to be mistaken for, a registered trade mark, [...]"

    This is the only section that might remotely apply in my opinion. More here:
    http://technollama.blogspot.com/2007/10/tv-links-clampdown.html

  5. Joe:
    Jan 04, 2008 at 10:51 PM

    I WAS RIGHT!!! TV-LINKS HAS CAME BACK NOW CALL HTTP://WWW.TV-LINKS.CC !!! HAPPY?

  6. Michael:
    Oct 25, 2007 at 02:08 PM

    Quality coverage too from out-law. They indicate the law seems not to cover this scenario. First, because 'facilitating copyright infringement' is not an offence in this jurisdiction, but also because the particular trade mark statute is unlikely to cover these facts. They also note that IPRED2 is heading our way fast.

    http://www.out-law.com//default.aspx?page=8568

  7. Quimby:
    Oct 26, 2007 at 03:13 AM

    The issue is simple. Linking in no way is covered by this law. Proving whether the proprietor(s) of tv-links had an intent to cause loss to the owners of the material is difficult to ascertain on many levels.

    INTENT
    Who actually owns a bootleg copy of an item? The person who recorded it? The hosters? The producers of said material? Let's assume that it's the producers, which is apparently the argument of the police. Then was tv-links' intending to defraud the producers? In my opinion, tv-links just wanted to help those who didn't mind viewing such material and wanted to help them find these materials easier on the Internet. Whether or not they intended to defraud the producers of said material is just speculation at best. Intent is always difficult to prove legally.

    DANGEROUS PRECEDENT
    This is part of that Orwellian mood that the authorities are bringing to the Internet. The Internet was designed to be redundant and to allow for the open transmission of information for people on the Net as part of a Cold War defense against the Soviet Union in case of nuclear war. Now that the Cold War is over, the Net has become an experiment gone overboard for corporations and governments. Traditional Orwellian solutions have never gone rewarded for long on the Net and I am sure that this one: "Linking may be illegal", will not stand for long. However what a pain in the ass to wait while hacker types sort it out. Ironically, has anyone noticed that a huge percentage of the illegal hosting that tv-links was pointing to appears to be asian? Why aren't the corporations going after them, the true violators?

    I CAN'T WAIT
    for the next incarnation of tv-links. I am raising my glass in advance to those who solve the problems that the old tv-links had and make it once again a well-run and simple site that told us where the pirates were hiding the loot.

    Cheers and good luck.

    Quimby Smith

  8. Dave:
    Nov 02, 2007 at 08:45 AM

    There was absolutely no copyright infringement with tv-links.co.uk!!! They did not host or store or distribute ANY files on their site, nor did they collect any money or membership fee. All they did is provide information and links to where you can find the files!! This is a back end attempt to get at the Chinese based sites that the film and television industry are incapable of shutting down!!! They are the ones hosting a majority of these files, and if you want you can search the web for these files using the (term site:website) parameter on any search engine including google and find these pirated files as easily as he did!! FACT needs to pull its head out of the sand and realize that this site was no different than YAHOO or GOOGLE... it just had a very specified purpose.

  9. The New Freedom » Blog Archive » Boston University Free Culture:
    Oct 25, 2007 at 04:19 AM

    [...] I got a note from the ORG/EFF about the TV-Links shutdown. The Open Rights Group have done a great write-up about what’s happened so far. They’ve even talked to police involved regarding the [...]

  10. Donagunn:
    Nov 04, 2007 at 10:53 PM

    Intellectual property hmmmm,

    Robbie williams, allanis morrisette and other big stars said they dont have a problem with the availability of their material on the internethttp://w2.eff.org/share/compensation.php its just the suits that blow up a fuss when they lose their money that makes the rich richer (shit like britney who may strike a chord with some but is she really worth millions - shes got a surplus that could mebe sort out her whole local comminity, not sure how much shes worth, anyways money hasnt cured her life much as shes in rehab or summat). Let everyone rip off everyone so the concept of this is miiine "fuk you" dissolves and lets the decent people give to the artists out of the good of their heart due to respect and appreciation rather than imposed control, VivA la revolution!!!!!!

    cHEERS
    dONAGUNN

  11. Mental Kipple » “You Are A Criminal By Default” Government Suggests:
    Oct 24, 2007 at 08:52 PM

    [...] It would appear that the government has fully implemented some of the aspects of the Gowers report which involve educating and empowering the Trading Standards officers (just look at the recent TV Links takedown). Unfortunately they haven’t been so quick to look at some of the points that make IP more flexible, like the recommendations for format shifting or parody. [...]

  12. Punktlich:
    Oct 22, 2007 at 07:53 PM

    It's a pity that the Web site was set up as *.co.uk and not as *.ru or *.md or *.tr (the latter preferably in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). Together with the use of an anonymizer, the "offenders" would have been difficult, if not impossible, to locate and prosecute.

  13. MJ:
    Oct 22, 2007 at 11:36 PM

    Maybe some other enterprising person will think of that and set up a new one. It is surely the actual fault of the hosting company that the copyrights are infringed. All the content on tv links can be found very easily on the host sites, so technically the owener of tv links is not in the wrong for providing information.
    it should be under the freedom of information act i believe

  14. TVLinks Owner Deserved to be Arrested » Web TV Wire:
    Oct 24, 2007 at 12:47 PM

    [...] Mr TVLinks donate any money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (or the UK equivalent Open Rights Group), the organizations that fight against ridiculous online copyright laws and [...]

  15. Dan:
    Nov 03, 2007 at 10:51 PM

    i never knew linking was illegal, and correct me if im wrong tv links didnt charge for any links to films or tv programs so whats illegal about shareing infomation because in reality thats all they did

  16. Jason:
    Feb 29, 2008 at 11:24 AM

    I wonder if linking to TV links sites is illegal ? http://www.videolala.com is a search engine for TV links, should we shut it down too ?



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