Copyright aspects of downloading and streaming
Streaming and downloading (or saving) media files involves the use of linking and framing Internet material, and relates to copyright law. Streaming and downloading can involve making infringing copies of the works in question; organizations running such websites may become vicariously liable for infringement by actively inducing infringement by others.
Open hosting servers allows people to upload files to a central server, which incurs bandwidth and hard disk space costs due to files generates with each download. Anonymous and open hosting servers make it difficult to hold hosts accountable. Taking legal action against the technologies behind unauthorized "file sharing" has proven successful for centralized networks (such as Napster), and untenable for decentralized networks like (Gnutella, BitTorrent).
Downloading and streaming relates to the more general usage of the Internet to facilitate copyright circumvention (copyright infringement), often called "piracy". As overt static hosting to unauthorized content (i.e. centralized networks) is often quickly and uncontroversially rebuffed, legal issues have in recent years tended to deal with the usage of dynamic web technologies (decentralized networks, trackerless bittorrents) to circumvent the ability of copyright owners to directly engage particular distributors and consumers.
On 5 June 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that streaming illegal content online is legal in Europe. The Boy Genius Report weblog noted that "As long as an Internet user is streaming copyrighted content online ... it’s legal for the user, who isn’t willfully [sic] making a copy of said content. If the user only views it directly through a web browser, streaming it from a website that hosts it, he or she is apparently doing nothing wrong."
Litigation (alphabetically by nation)
In Europe, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that it is legal to look at content (copyrighted or otherwise) online. The ruling relates to the British Meltwater case settled on 5 June 2014.
The judgement of the court states that: "Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the copies on the user’s computer screen and the copies in the internet ‘cache’ of that computer’s hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website, satisfy the conditions that those copies must be temporary, that they must be transient or incidental in nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process, as well as the conditions laid down in Article 5(5) of that directive, and that they may therefore be made without the authorisation of the copyright holders."
The Pirate Bay litigation
On April 17, 2009, a Swedish court convicted four men operating the The Pirate Bay Internet site of criminal copyright infringement. The Pirate Bay was established in 2003 by the Swedish anti-copyright organization Piratbyrån to provide information needed to download film or music files from third parties, many of whom copied the files without permission. The Pirate Bay does not store copies of the files on its own servers, but did provide peer-to-peer links to other servers on which infringing copies were stored. Apparently the theory of the prosecution was that the defendants, by their conduct, actively induced infringement. Under US copyright law, this would be a so-called Grokster theory of infringement liability.
The Swedish district court imposed damages of 30 million crowns ($3,600,000) and one-year prison sentences on the four defendants. "The defendants have furthered the crimes that the file sharers have committed," said district court judge Tomas Norstöm. He added, "They have been helpful to such an extent that they have entered into the field of criminal liability." "We are of course going to appeal," defense lawyer Per Samuelsson said. The The Pirate Bay has 25 million users and is considered one of the biggest file-sharing websites in the world. It is conceded that The Pirate Bay does not itself make copies or store files, but the court did not consider that fact dispositive. "By providing a website with ... well-developed search functions, easy uploading and storage possibilities, and with a tracker linked to the website, the accused have incited the crimes that the filesharers have committed," the court said in a statement.
- Smith, Chris. "Pirating copyrighted content is legal in Europe, if done correctly". www.bgr.com. Boy Genius Report. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- "Good news everyone: after 5 years, we now know that what we do every day is legal…No, seriously". http://copyright4creativity.eu. Copyright for Creativity: A Declaration for Europe. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- "CJEU Judgment: No Copyright Infringement in Mere Web Viewing". www.scl.org. SCL - The IT Law Community (UK). Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- Meyer, David. "You can’t break copyright by looking at something online, Europe’s top court rules". https://gigaom.com/. Gigaom. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- "Case C‑360/13". Court of Justice of the European Union. Court of Justice of the European Union. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- See Times Online.
- See Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913 (2005).
- Kultur & Nöje; AFP; ABC News.