The Popcorn Time injunction and 3 points to take from it

July 28, 2017


Case study: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation & others v Sky UK Ltd & others [2015] EWHC 1082 (Ch)

The High Court has ordered the five major internet service providers to block access to websites offering the popular Popcorn Time application.

The Popcorn Time app, launched in early 2014, made it easier for its users to access copyright materials on third party websites. The app was built with a user-friendly interface and was regularly updated.

The court found that the predominant purpose of the app was to infringe copyright. The “common design” of the app was to communicate protected works to the public. On this basis the court found Popcorn Time to be jointly liable with the third party websites hosting the infringing content. On the facts of this case, the court held that the websites hosting the Popcorn Time application were not liable for “communicating” the infringing works simply by making the app available to download.

The service provided by the ISPs (who did not oppose the application) was an essential means of the copyright infringement, and this justified the grant of injunctions against them.

It remains to be seen how effective this injunction will be in practice as technology and “workarounds” are developing. However, those hosting websites should take the following points from this important case:

Know Your Content – Providing access to copyright (or otherwise protected) material will likely result in a claim from the owner of the intellectual property. Make sure that you only include material you own, or obtain a licence or permission from the rights holder. If in doubt, make enquiries or don’t post it at all.

Check Your Endorsements – If you are making applications available for download, make sure you know what they are. Whilst in Popcorn Time the websites which carried the app were not found liable for copyright infringement, such decisions are made on a case by case basis and are fact dependent. Similarly, be wary of endorsing or promoting an application without understanding it.

Take Advice – If you think a website or application is infringing your intellectual property, seek legal advice early on. Intellectual property is a complex area and, in some cases, threatening an infringement action (if unfounded) could land you in hot water legally. The resulting litigation can be lengthy and expensive: early advice could save you heartache, stress and also a lot of money.

Should you require any assistance or advice in relation to issues arising from intellectual property rights please contact a member of our Corporate Commercial team who will be happy to assist.

This briefing just provides an overview of the law in this area, it is not legal advice and should not be treated or relied upon as such. You should talk to us for a complete understanding of how it may affect your particular circumstances.

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