Posted in: Legal, DRM, Piracy & IP, News by Chris Tew on October 24, 2007

TVLinksThere I said it! I know lots of people won’t agree with me and think the owner of TV-Links.co.uk is some sort of martyr who is fighting our cause against the big copyright Mongols but that is bullshit.

What is TVLinks & What Happened?

For those of you that don’t know TV-Links.co.uk is a site that was full of links to pirated TV shows on sites like YouTube, MySpace Video, DailyMotion etc.

Millions of people flocked to TVLinks each month to watch these pirated shows and can you blame them? Content owners have put so many barriers between people and the videos they want to watch: DRM, high DVD prices, not putting shows online… the list goes on.

TVLinks was recently shut down and the owner arrested in the UK.

TVLinks was making at least $80,000 a month!

Before TVLinks was shut down it ranked as the 182nd busiest site in the world. That is HUGE!! By my estimation that is bigger than NBC.com and Fox.com put together.

This site was receiving millions of visitors a month and according to Alexa each person would view 9 pages of the site. So if TVLinks had a modest 3 million visitors a month it would be getting 27 million page views a month (it was probably much higher than this).

TVLinks did have advertising on its site and if it made just $3 out of every 1000 page views (again a very low estimation) then the owner would be making over $80,000 each month!

Did the owner of TVLinks use this vast amount of essentially stolen money to help change the frustrating copyright and video distribution system we have today?

  • Did Mr TVLinks give any money back to the original people who made and worked on these TV shows & movies that are watched by millions?
  • Did Mr TVLinks donate any money to charitable organizations that are fighting for a better TV distribution system, e.g. Miro.com?
  • Did Mr TVLinks donate any money to amateur internet video production projects that distribute their content freely online?
  • Did Mr TVLinks donate any money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (or the UK equivalent Open Rights Group), the organizations that fight against ridiculous online copyright laws and DRM?

I very much doubt it!

I’m sure all this money was put straight in his back pocket while the takedown notices piled up at his door, which he chose to ignore.

TVLinks Was Just Waiting to be Shut Down

Unless the owner was somewhat stupid he would have done a bit of research to find that past cases have shown that linking to pirated content is in fact illegal, even Google has to take down infringing links if they are told too.

He may have also gotten wind that content owners were pretty pissed with the situation. A $1 billion lawsuit against YouTube being just one of the many signs.

But he chose to ignore this and carried on raking in his $80,000 a month until the police turned up on his door. Honestly – what did this guy expect to happen?

TVLinks Not Helping the Industry

TVLinks represented a huge demand for people to watch TV shows & movies online, so I guess that is helping to spell something out to the TV companies of what they should be thinking of doing.

But because TVLinks was just profiting from pirated material then it hasn’t really helped move us forward as it made itself an easy target for legal action. It has probably just encouraged content owners to become more defensive and weary of online distribution.

It may have also allowed the Federation Against Copyright Theft (‘FACT’) to get information on the people who are uploading the content to sites like YouTube in the first place, as many were active within the TVLinks community.

It is Sites Like YouTube That Are Helping Us

The reason we have seen any of this pirated content is because sites like YouTube are remaining within legal parameters while also giving a voice to its community to push forward with free online TV distribution.

YouTube is not ignoring the content owners, it tries to be reasonable and work with them wherever possible which is causing them to slowly (be it very slowly) open their doors to free online distribution.

I’m not saying YouTube is an angel, it does a lot of things I disagree with, but it is doing more to move online video in the direction we want than TVLinks.

Before I get the inane comments:

Before anyone hits me with the same inane comments I’ve read everywhere else here are my answers for them:

Frustrated Reader #1

“Linking is Not A Crime! This effectively makes the entire internet illegal.”

You are right, linking is not illegal, if done responsibly. For example, someone who owned a site that linked to (but not hosted) child pornography would obviously be breaking the law – but under your argument it is “not a crime” because the site is just innocently linking.

If we do link to something we shouldn’t – for example a pirated show, then the content owner will send a takedown notice telling you to remove the links, if you do this you shouldn’t have any problems.

This has been standard practice for a long time and something that Google, Yahoo, MSN and many other sites do on a regular basis.

Frustrated Reader #2

“If TVLinks is illegal then so is Google”

TVLinks and Google are very different.

Firstly TVLinks sole purpose is to link to pirated content whereas Google is a search service. That puts them in two different leagues. In the U.S Google would be protected by safe harbor laws and TVLinks would not.

Secondly Google will take down links to pirated material when requested because they have to by law. All you need to is ask them.

Frustrated Reader #3

“This is just another example of the content owners just bullying the little guys”

TVLinks was not a “little guy” it was the 182nd biggest website in the world – busier than other billion dollar internet companies. Left to its own devices it would soon be a very big company.

Also the content owners spend plenty of time suing the bug guys like Google and YouTube for copyright infringement. Or have you forgotten YouTube’s $1 billion lawsuit courtesy of Viacom?

Frustrated Reader #4

“Another site like this can just be set-up in China, Malaysia or some other country and escape these copyright laws”

Yes this is very true. QuickSilverScreen did just that. The owner gave up his successful site which he did for fun and handed it over to someone in Malaysia where it lives on. How long this will go on for I don’t know but it certainly makes a pirate TV site a more difficult target.

ALSO SEE

Click Here for our Roundup of Video Copyright Posts.

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