Action sparks debate over the status of sites that link to illegal content
A British website that provided links to illegal copies of TV shows and films has been closed down.
The closure of the site was accompanied by the arrest of a 26-year-old man, who has since been released pending further enquiries.
It is alleged that visitors to the site could access links to major feature films, sometimes within days of their initial cinema release.
Recent links were said to take users to illegal versions of the Disney/Pixar animation Ratatouille.
Kieron Sharp, director general of FACT, said: “The theft and distribution of films harms the livelihoods of those working in the UK film industry and in ancillary industries, as well as damaging the economy.
“In addition, those visiting sites hosting illegal content run the risk of downloading Trojans or viruses that can infect their computers.”
Roger Marles, head of Trading Standards, said: "This practice allows people to view any one of a large number of films and television programmes directly via the website. This is illegal under UK copyright law.
"The 'users' are potentially evading licence fees, subscription fees to digital services or the cost of purchase or admittance to cinemas to view the films."
However, the action has sparked debate over the legal status of sites that provide links to illegal content, rather than hosting the content themselves.
When contacted by Computeractive, a spokesperson for Gloucestershire police confirmed that the man in this case "was arrested for using trademarks without authorisation".
Kim Walker of law firm Pinsent Masons said: "The Trade Marks Act makes the unauthorised use of trade marks in relation to goods an offence; but this is a law that was written to catch counterfeit goods.
"The provision of links is surely a service, not a sale of goods. It seems an unlikely way to deal with the problem."
FACT's statement on the case claimed that the arrest was for "offences relating to the facilitation of copyright infringement". However, Walker said: "We don't have an offence in the UK for facilitation of copyright infringement. "
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