TV-Links Links No More: Web Destination For Free Entertainment Shut Down


Published: November 8, 2007

The latest site to experience forced closure in a Napster-like crackdown against anti-piracy, aggregated streaming content into an easy-to-use format. Its links, updated regularly by the site’s patrons and its administrators, provided varied content, including movies, television episodes, anime, cartoons, documentaries, music videos and sports clips. The catch? Most of the content linked to on this particular site is copyrighted, and therefore illegal. The defense? TV-Links did not host a single clip, and instead, provided the hyperlinks to the content. These links were then presented in a universal Flash player, but the content remained hosted by outside sites (such as YouTube, Veoh, Dailymotion, etc.). It simply acts as the middle man between host and user.

On Oct. 19, the site owner of TV-Links was arrested in Gloucestershire, England, by the local police and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) for allegedly coming in conflict with the terms of Section 92 of the Trade Marks Act and Copyright Act. The URL was immediately closed, and although charges have yet to be pressed, this raid has left FCLC students puzzled. “I don’t think it’s fair to blame the site for what others have hosted,” said Matthew Conlin, FCLC ’09. “TV-Links was just the door. You don’t blame the door to a funhouse if those crazy mirrors scare you, you blame the room itself.”

Section 92, which deals with the “Unauthorised use of trade mark, &c, in relation to goods,” specifically states that “a person commits an offence [when he or she] … 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, or has such an article in his possession, custody, or control in the course of a business.”

In the past, Section 92 has been used in British law for the seizure of those who have been illegally selling DVDs and CDs, which are actual, physical property. TV-Links is an entirely different matter. There is no physical material (all of the content is digital), and furthermore, the proprietor of the Web site did not have any of the material in his possession; instead, the site merely pointed people in the correct direction for potentially illegal content.

Complicating the situation even further is the fact that many of the sites hosting the illegal content are outside of Britain, from the United States to as far as China. This international problem of copyright infringement is not easily solved, as there are far too many parties involved: the users uploading the actual content the Web sites hosting said content, the aggregator of the content, and the viewers that watch the final result.

Aleksey Gaidamak, FCLC ’08, felt that this fact relieves TV-Links of blame. “At the worst, he was an accomplice.” Gaidamak continued, “It’s not going to put people out of business. The whole piracy issue might just be an excuse for the whole industry to pull losses. If a product is really good, people will want to buy it.”

There are few provisions granted for the application of the legal system to the new digital climate. “The Internet is increasingly relied on as an indispensable medium for global commerce.  Consequently, intellectual property laws must evolve to protect the commercial rights and property of those businesses that wish to legally exploit this medium,” said Anthony Morano, Esq., a patent and copyright attorney with the law firm of Ezra Sutton & Associates, P.A. “To this end, anti-copyright theft laws must be revised to facilitate the prosecution of those who wish to use the Internet as a safe harbor to capitalize and profit from the illegal sale or distribution of the copyrighted material of others.”

Is there anything at all that the media industry can do to acknowledge this change? “It bothers me that the industry relies on the do-it-yourself culture of the Internet. Shows often use snarky, Internet-culture humor. The industry does not allow the show and the Internet to cross-fertilize,” said Professor Karen Williams, FCLC professor of communication and media studies, citing shows like HBO’s “Flight of the Concords,” which relies on YouTube-type production techniques and humor. Williams summed the situation up nicely. “The industry needs to give content [to users] in a cheaper way.”