Posted in: Broadband Video Companies, Legal, DRM, Piracy & IP, News, Video Start-Ups, Video on Demand by Chris Tew on June 29, 2007
Peekvid in Prison

Peekvid got shut down. Was the MPAA involved…?

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Peekvid is a website that indexes pirate TV content that appear on video portals like YouTube, Daily Motion and other similar video sharing sites. Peekvid is the most successful site of its kind with its popularity being fueled by the hundreds of free TV shows it provides access too.

The Movie Pictures Association of America (MPAA) has had enough and flied a lawsuit against PeekVid and another similar site called YouTVPC on June 27th 2007. Peekvid doesn’t appear to care in the slightest and has continued to expand the site.

What has Peekvid Done Wrong?

PeekVid does not host the content, it simply links to it. Many would say this is not illegal by blindly stating “Google links to illegal content all the time” and “What about YouTube, they are the ones hosting the videos”.

John Malcolm, Executive Vice President and Director of Worldwide Anti-Piracy Operations for the MPAA, said that:

The sole purpose of these sites is to disseminate content that has been illegally reproduced and distributed. They are a one-stop shop for copyright infringement. These lawsuits should serve as a warning to other aspiring movie theft ‘entrepreneurs’ that they are not above the law and will face serious consequences for their activities. Profiting from the theft of other people’s creative works is illegal and must be stopped”.

What Makes PeekVid Illegal and Google Legal?

The U.S law pretty much always says that linking to infringing content is a crime if you are informed about the infringing link and do not remove it. I won’t go into the details here but if you want to know more you can read about linking laws here.

Google is not allowed to link to infringing content but will obviously do so as part of its indexing mechanism. However, if an infringing link is brought to their attention they MUST take it down or face legal action. Google does this on a regular basis. Here are details on how you file a takedown request with Google.

FOR WEB SEARCH, YOU MUST IDENTIFY EACH SEARCH RESULT THAT DIRECTLY LINKS TO A WEB PAGE THAT ALLEGEDLY CONTAINS INFRINGING MATERIAL. This requires you to provide (a) the search query that you used, and (b) the URL for each allegedly infringing search result.”

Does PeekVid remove infringing links when asked? It doesn’t look like it does and therefore it is open to legal action.

History Has Shown PeekVid will Lose or Move Country

According to CNET Peekvid is owned by two Australians and according to a recent article from ars technica the site is hosted in Texas. This makes PeekVid an easy target for the MPAA as it is legally reachable.

As far as I know this is the first lawsuit to actually be filed against a Pirate TV directory site. So far a threatening takedown notice was enough to make alternative PeekVid sites shutdown or leave the country without ever having to go to court. Here is what happened to some other similar sites:

  • Daily Episodes vs. Fox – Daily episodes was shut down after it was suggested it received take down notices from Fox.
  • AllSimps.com vs. Fox – AllSimps.com removed its entire directory of infringing links in fear of retribution from Fox.
  • TVLinks vs. MPAA – TVLinks relocated after it was threatened by the MPAA
  • QuickSilverScreen vs. Fox – QuickSilverScreen was given away by an American Citizen to a Malaysian citizen to escape U.S. copyright law
  • MahTV vs. MPAA – MahTV, a UK based website, was shutdown after cease and desist letters from the MPAA.

For past cases involving infringing links that have actually reached the courts see this article.

Is PeekVid a Solution?

Peekvid states on its website:

Peekvid is committed to an industry solution that will provide a mechanism to compensate artists that create the work you enjoy watching. Peekvid would like to be part of the long term solution.”

If television content is going to be available online for free then at least some of the money made from advertising should go to the talented people involved in the creation, production and promotion of that content.

Does Peekvid compensate artists like it says it wants to or does it rake in the income from the intrusive adverts on its website? It appears to be the latter.

Is Peekvid Helping the Fight for Free Internet TV?

I hate high priced DVDs, I hate the lack of free TV content available online, I hate high priced cable subscriptions, I hate dozens of adverts during one TV show and I think video media is generally way overpriced. I’d love to see the hefty media companies bring more of their content online for free with a minimal amount of advertising.

While sites like PeekVid are illegal and not a long term solution I commend them for pressuring media companies to release content for free online. I’m pretty sure it has been a driving force in NBC, CBS, CWTV, Fox and ABC bringing TV shows online (if only for U.S. citizens.

I Lose All Respect for Peekvid

Unfortunately I lose all respect for Peekvid when they fill their site with intrusive annoying adverts to profit off other people’s work.

If they wanted to help the cause they should remove the adverts and make a political statement against the media companies. If they didn’t profit from the infringement then the case for “copyright infringement” would be severely hindered making the MPAA’s job a lot harder.

PeekVid Ignoring Lawsuit

Peekvid seems to be ignoring the lawsuit and is actually expanding its website with a news design and a number of new features including a blog and a "Your Vids" section.

I just spoke to the company that handles marketing (search engine optimization etc.) for Peekvid. They did not even know a lawsuit had been filed against their client. *see update 3.

Update: – YouTVPC.com looks like it has shutdown in response to the lawsuit being filed. PeekVid remains active.

Update2: – The MPAA has now filed a lawsuit against ShowStash.com – the site is now closed.

Update3: – Blazin Multimedia denied any involvement with PeekVid and said that the person I spoke with was not a genuine representative of their company but an impersonator.

Update4: – Peekvid opened the site up to uploaders who could upload video to the site. It capped it at 15,000 members who could join to upload videos and the 15,000 spots were filled within 4 days.

Update5: – I was contacted by a lawyer representing the MPAA who was asking questions about Blazin Multimedia’s involvement in PeekVid. I got the impression the MPAA was clutching at straws to find a way to take this site down, but I still believe eventually the MPAA will win the case against PeekVid.

Update6: Peekvid closes down. Was the MPAA involved?

[Via MPAA press release (pdf)]

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