Summary: QuickSilverScreen is a US based website that is being forced to shut down or be given away for free after Fox claimed that LINKING to TV Shows on video sharing sites like YouTube and DailyMotion is illegal. Fox also alledgedly claims the site cannot be sold by the owner so therefore it must be given away for free.
In case you havn’t noticed there have been a number of directories popping up that link to full TV shows that are available online through video sharing sites such as YouTube and DailyMotion.
A few examples are All About South Park, Daily Motion Episodes and IPTV To Me, and apparently under US law all these sites are illegal. One such site has been targeted by Fox and asked to shut down, this site is QuickSilverScreen.
What Fox Says
The owner of the site recently disregarded a letter he received from Fox which stated that linking to copyrighted TV shows on the net is illegal.
”On behalf of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and/or its subsidiaries and affiliated companies (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Fox”), I am writing to notify quicksilverscreen.com of the infringement of Fox’s intellectual property rights in the above listed television series on the http://quicksilverscreen.com/ website and to demand that quicksilverscreen.com take immediate action to stop such infringements.”
The Legal Situation
“QuickSilverScreen may in fact violate US law”
QuickSilverScreen is owned and hosted in the USA and quickly reacted by switching to servers in Malysia. However, when Steve, the owner of QuickSilverScreen approached the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) — A foundation that addresses social and legal issues arising from the impact of computers on society – he was told by EFFs Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann that “QuickSilverScreen may in fact violate US law, and that the EFF cannot represent him”.
I’m no Intellectual Property Lawyer but I think the legality around the site and linking to copyrighted content is very hazy. I’d like to emphasize the word may in the sentence “QuickSilverScreen may in fact violate US law”.
I’m pretty damn sure there is a strong argument that QuickSilverScreen is completely legal in the USA but at the same time there is also a strong argument it is illegal. I’m sure the last thing it wants is a legal battle with a big corporation like Fox.
“Fox is effectively being a Bully”
This law (if it were true) effectively takes freedom away from people by dictating what they can and can’t link to. This law is a grey area and Fox could very well be proved wrong. Luckily for Fox it can happily dictate what it believes to be the law unchallenged because they have the bigger pockets. Fox is effectively being a Bully trying to force sites like QuickSilverScreen so shut down.
What does this “law” mean?
Looking at recent South Park episodes that have appeared on YouTube you can see they are getting close to 10,000 views before they are taken down. Is it illegal for me to link to such an episode and tell people it’s there? That just doesn’t seem right.
If it is illegal for me to link to copyrighted content is it also illegal for me to write down the web address and give it to my friend? If I can’t communicate it on the internet then surely I can’t communicate it offline either. Am I not allowed to utter the words “South Park Episodes, Free, You Tube, Search” to my friends?
Where does the blame lie?
The people and companies who are really responsible for letting this copyrighted content become available on the internet are the video sharing sites for hosting the content and the people who upload the content.
YouTube and similar sites currently get away with hosting copyrighted content under the Safe Harbor laws by simply taking down any content when requested to do so by content owners.
Since illegal copyrighted content makes up a small proportion of content on video sharing sites and because it is uploaded by a user and not the website itself, the Safe Harbor laws hold quite strong, although they are not without holes.
Lucky for YouTube, it has some powerful Google lawyers behind the company to argue it’s point. Google has also reportedly paid off some content owners for the time being.
Also let’s not forget about that person who uploaded the copyrighted video? They knew exactly what they were doing and have no right to do it. But their identities are somewhat protected by the video sharing sites and the worst thing that happens to them is that they upload it again under a different username, while someone who links to that copyrighted video gets their site shut down.
Looking at this from a different perspective YouTube also seperates itself from a site like QuickSilverScreen because YouTube’s sole use is not to provide access to copyrighted content whereas QuickSilverScreen is solely to provide access to illegal content.
The Future of QuickSilverScreen
The owner of the QuickSilverScreen (QSS) who goes by the name of Steve says he has worked on the site for 8 years, since he was 18. Steve has built up a loyal community that has helped shape the website into a useful tool for finding TV shows online.
The ultimatum from Fox left Steve with a decision of closing the site or selling it, after putting years into the site he decided to sell it. According to Steve Fox were not too happy with this and told him he was not allowed to sell it.
In the QSS forum Steve said: “SitePoint banned my auction. (Thanks Fox!). Yes, Fox forced SitePoint to ban my auction, or at least that’s what SitePoint told me.”
Steve’s only option to keep the site alive is to give it away for free. He is asking anyone in a country which allows linking to copyrighted content to take over the site and promise to keep it alive. He is asking for $50 to cover the transfer of 5 domains associated with QSS.
Steve’s only option to keep the site alive is to give it away for free
On the QSS forum Steve said “Fox now claims that it is illegal for me to even SELL QSS to someone else. That’s why I’m giving it away” and in a separate thread he stated “Now I have to GIVE it away to whoever will take it, and that has not only made me cry once today, it has literally made me vomit three times in the last three hours.”
I feel sorry for Steve who’s obviously worked on the site for a long time and now has to give it away or see it shut down. However, anyone could see it would only be a matter of time before the TV companies gave QSS a kick with their boot of legal ‘justice’.
QSS will likely live on and move to some other distant foreign country away from the grasps of TV lawyers and even if it doesn’t there are plenty of other similar sites doing similar things that will continue to exist outside the US.
The Impact on Video and the Internet
Getting rid of QSS will not stop people watching free TV shows, they will just simply move onto somewhere else and use a site that is not based in the USA.
If TV companies want to stop this problem they need to tackle sites like YouTube head on to prevent them from hosting copyrighted TV shows and/or to provide a legitimate legal way to watch the TV shows online which is easy to use, not littered with adverts and fairly priced.
I do not agree with or condone pirating TV shows, but at the same time I do not agree with high DVD prices, excessive adverts on TV, and that there is no easy or fair way to download legitimate content off the net which is not overpriced and crippled with DRM.
For that reason I think TV shows appearing for free on the internet is a good thing and I hope it will eventually force content owners to distribute video fairly. Until that happens I won’t be siding with the TV companies when they threaten sites like QuickSilverScreen.
Want to learn more about Linking Laws and copyrighted video?
The site was eventually given away to someone in Malaysia and now continues to prosper away from U.S copyright laws.
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