Screenshot of the TV Links front page on October 10, 2007
|Web address||tv-links.co.uk (defunct)|
|Slogan||Better Than a Remote Control|
|Type of site||Video directory|
|Created by||David Rock|
|Revenue||Donations and Image Ads|
|Alexa rank||206 (October 2007)|
|Current status||Offline; domain now hosts a different website|
TV Links was a user contributed online video directory for television programmes, films, and music videos. In a similar style to BitTorrent trackers such as The Pirate Bay, video content was not hosted by TV Links. Instead, videos were hosted by third-party video sharing websites. The website was operated as a hobby by David Rock of Cheltenham, England.
On October 18, 2007, the website's servers, located in the Netherlands, were raided and shut down by Gloucestershire police in cooperation with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) in response to complaints received from major US film studios about TV Links. No official clarification has been made to date as to why the website was shut down. Simultaneously, David Rock was arrested, and later released pending further investigation, without being charged with a crime. Although FACT initially stated that the raid was performed because of allegations of copyright infringement, it later stated that Rock was arrested for trademark infringement.
Shutdown and arrests by UK government
Initial claims by FACT indicated the arrest was made due to offenses of facilitating copyright infringement. However, it was later made clear that the arrest was over a matter of possible trademark infringement.
In a statement issued by FACT following the events, local trading standards head Roger Marles implied that the website's update from hyperlinks to a streaming video player might have affected the shutdown. He stated that the arrest and shutdown were initiated because TV Links allowed users "[to view] any one of a large number of films and television programmes directly via the website. This is illegal under UK copyright law."
Whilst arrested under Section 92 of the Trade Marks Act 1994, he has now been released "pending further investigation" with no charges filed against him. Section 92 has been used to prosecute illegal copiers of CDs and DVDs, but never in the absence of a physical storage medium. It is unclear whether the operation of TV Links was actually a crime under UK law. In an interview, Rock stated that he would have not started the website if he had found anything in the laws of the country stating that what he was doing was illegal.
Video content that was used by the website was hosted by third-party video sharing websites. TV Links used hyperlinks, and later a streaming web-based video player, in order to link visitors to videos.
The website had a forum community with a membership of around 37,000 members at the time of closure. Links to videos were posted daily on the forums by members, and later moved to the website listings by admins.
After the video player was introduced, the website's crew enforced a strict policy against saving the provided video content, and viewing it outside the scope of its video player. This policy was further enforced by a technical implementation, the URL that directed the video player to video files contained a randomly generated MD5 encoded string, and was made to expire after several minutes, or after being loaded once.
As part of the effort to protect the website against legal action, a link to the following legal disclaimer was displayed at the bottom of most pages.
TV Links is not responsible for any content linked to or referred to from these pages. TV Links does not host any content on our Servers. All video links point to content hosted on third party websites. Users who upload to these websites agree not to upload illegal content when creating their user accounts. TV Links does not accept responsibility for content hosted on third party websites.
— TV Links legal disclaimer
Eva Wiseman of The Guardian had described the practices of linking to copyrighted content as "teetering on the edge of illegality" in an article on similar video directory services. On the other hand, it has been speculated that concerns over the popularity of websites such as TV Links were an influence on the launch of official online video on demand services from Britain's terrestrial television networks, such as the BBC iPlayer and 4od.
- front page, November 1, 2006
- Archived Alexa ranking
- "TV-Links man: 'I'm no master criminal'". The Register.
- Lucy Sherriff (23 October 2007). "TV-Links man was arrested under trademark laws". The Register. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- Example of old hyperlink listing style
- Downloading Flvs/direct Urls., About downloading and direct links., TV Links forum announcements
- Archived video player page
- tv-links.co.uk forced offline and owner arrested at www.p2pvine.com (accessed October 2007, 2007)
- Kevin Anderson (25 October 2007). "Why was someone arrested over the TV Links website?". The Guardian (London).
- Official website at the Wayback Machine (archived October 19, 2007)
- Requests To Become "post links continuously", How To Earn Link Hunter Status forum, TV Links
- TV Links at the Wayback Machine (archived June 9, 2007)
- "Eva Wiseman logs on to the sites staging a TV revolution". The Guardian (London). February 24, 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-05.