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 Injunctions Against Torrent Sites For Copyright Infringement

Injunctions Against Torrent Sites For Copyright Infringement – Is This Practical?

June 2, 2015

The trial

Last week the High Court made a ruling in the case of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and others v Sky UK Ltd and others. This case has become known as a the Popcorn Time case as it centred around the app of the same name and whether internet service providers (ISPs) were liable where customers used torrent sites to access copyrighted material. This case was significant because it caused many ISPs to deny access to sites that aided in online copyright infringement.

The case was brought by members of the Motion Picture Association of America, the copyright holders for films that were viewed using open source BIT torrents like Popcorn TimeThe Popcorn Time app itself is no longer in use following its take down on 14 March 2014. Since that time many variants to the original have emerged.

With the advent of new technologies that operate in innovative ways Courts are faced with trying to ensure that the law develops in line with these technologies. Under the traditional analysis the Court found that the websites did not violate the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 because the sites did not communicate works or authorise infringement of those works.

Section 97A of the Copyright Act, which allows for injunctions against ISPs who have actual knowledge that their services are being used to infringe copyrights was found to be applicable. The argument that torrent-streaming sites are not infringing was raised. Justice Birss applied the established standard and found that these sites were not infringing because none of the sites actually caused the transfer or transmission of copyrighted material. The Court later accepted a more nuanced argument that the websites as well as the ISPs were joint tortfeasors as both were found to be complicit in the act of aiding copyright infringement. As noted, Justice Birss did find jurisdiction to issue the injunction under section 97A saying that even though the joint tortfeasor argument was not the standard argument that would have applied, it was important to find the correct legal basis for the application of the law.

Professor Crouch has said that the case was easily won as ISPs conceded that their customers were engaging in illegal activity and were all too ready to comply with the Court’s order. He also highlights the importance of Birss J.’s comment that such sites have non-infringing uses as well and this is why it is important to be precise.

Repercussions of the ruling

The Master Herald has said that this ruling will have little impact in curbing the amount of copyright infringement that occurs online for films. Although the jurisdiction of the ruling is limited to the UK, it is clear that the impact will not even be significant within the UK’s borders as similar sites will continue to flourish so long as there is a demand because the injunction was limited to Popcorn Time. Although there is now a legal precedent in place for stopping infringement by similar sites, actions must be brought against each site