TV catch-up service UKNova has just announced
that further to receiving a cease and desist letter from the Federation Against
Copyright Theft (FACT), it will be taking down all links or access to
UKNova sent the following
message to its members:
the members of UKNova.
UKNova is being forced to change. We have been
issued with a "cease and desist" order by FACT (The Federation
Against Copyright Theft).
our efforts to cooperate with the UK media companies, FACT have stated:
"ALL links or access to content provided by UKNova are infringing, unless
it can be proven that explicit permission from the copyright holder for that
content has been obtained".
we believe that they are wrong both legally and morally on account of the
strong 'no commercial content' stance that we have always taken, we are not in
a position to be able to risk lengthy and costly court battles to prove this.
Therefore we have no other option but to close down the trackers. It has not
been an easy decision to take, but it is apparently our only option.
forums will remain open for business as usual. Torrents and their associated
pages will disappear over the next few hours.
heartfelt thanks go to all, past and present, who have worked tirelessly, often
thanklessly, for the good of our community."
UKNova's site sets out some
background to the principles on which the site, which was originally created in
2003 to enable people to share British television programmes, operates. UKNova says
that its main aim is to "enable people to see programmes they would not
otherwise be able to watch, perhaps because they live abroad or have missed
something they wanted to watch when it was broadcast live."
UKNova does not store copies of any
television shows on its servers and it does not "itself 'share' any
copyrighted material with anyone else". The site allows people who wish to
share programming to link up with one another, using the BitTorrent protocol.
The concept seems at a first glance to
closely resemble the ill-fated SurfTheChannel
(STC) and TVShack
websites. Each of these sites links to content owned by third parties, allowing
users to find content that they want to watch more easily. Given the 4-year
jail sentence imposed on Anton Vickerman for running STC (for conspiracy to
defraud, rather than for copyright infringement) and the possible extradition
faced by Richard O'Dwyer, owner of TVShack, it is clear why UKNova have opted
to remove the allegedly infringing links rather than face court proceedings.
However a crucial difference between
UKNova on the one , and STC and TVShack on the other, is the commercial focus
of the sites. When suing Vickerman, FACT explicitly made a statement
saying that "The site [STC] was not a passive linking or search site. Vickerman
targeted pirated films including those not yet released at the cinema which he
and his staff secretly and anonymously uploaded to third party sites before
linking to them via STC. Members of the surfthechannel community were also
encouraged to find, check and add links, ensuring that surfthechannel was always
one of the most up to date databases of illegally copied material anywhere on
Both Vickerman and O'Dwyer made hundreds
of thousands of pounds from their sites, however UKNova clearly states on its
"It is one of the fundamental
principles of UKNova that we do not wish to cause any harm to potential revenue
streams for broadcasters and programme makers. For this reason, no television
or radio programme that is available for purchase worldwide from retailers, on
CD, DVD or video, is allowed to be shared on this website. Please do not ask
for material to be uploaded here that is available to buy. Such material is not
UKNova is free to use. It is not possible
to buy ratio bonuses or special privileges, or anything else like that. The
site survives purely from voluntary donations and all donations go towards the
costs of running the server. If you use the site and the service it provides,
please try to contribute to the running costs by donating."
In support of this, you can see the
extensive list of content that UKNova did not permit to be uploaded to its site
here. Irrespective of this
blacklist, UKNova linked to content owned by third parties without the right to
do so. It enabled users to view that content without paying making rightsholders
less likely to be able to monetise that content themselves.
According to TorrentFreak,
in this case despite UKNova's ethical approach, a small percentage of a big UK
satellite provider's content and the content of a football production company
(apparently BSkyB and the Premier League) was available on UKNova. It was this
that persuaded FACT to send the cease and desist letter.
The application of copyright law to the Internet
is far from clear in respect of many issues, however the main source of misunderstanding
from the public's point of view seems to be: if I'm not making money from
sharing content I'm not doing anything wrong. The US case of Flava
Works Inc. v Marques Rondale Runt recently
held that it is not an infringement to embed a copyright-infringing video on
another website. The correct approach is probably to make licensing of content
easier so that people can pay for what they want to see. Generally people are
willing to pay for shows they like but when it is so easy to view them for free
they see no need to.