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Man Arrested For Linking To Online Videos 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-they-were-rickrolls-i-can-understand dept.
SonicSpike writes "In a case against a New York website owner, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is claiming that merely linking to copyrighted material is a crime. DHS, along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), seized Brian McCarthy's domain, channelsurfing.net, in late January. The site has now been replaced with a government warning: 'This domain has been seized by ICE — Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent in Charge, New York Office.' The advocacy group Demand Progress has claimed that McCarthy never reproduced copyrighted material, and that his website simply linked to other sites. A criminal complaint obtained by the group seems to acknowledge that agents knew that McCarthy was running a 'linking website.' While the criminal complaint alleges that McCarthy did engage in the 'reproduction and distribution' of copyrighted material, it is never clear that he actually reproduced any of the specified broadcasts." McCarthy was arrested last week. Relatedly, TorrentFreak has posted a list of reasons why these domain name seizures are unconstitutional.
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Man Arrested For Linking To Online Videos

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  • by Hatta (162192) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @08:45AM (#35470742) Journal

    It was time for the people to rise up in the US thirty years ago. After all that time the only significant popular movement to arise is a bunch of idiots trying to give more power to the elites. There is no hope for America.

  • by Thad Zurich (1376269) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @08:55AM (#35470780)
    According to http://act.demandprogress.org/sign/dhscomplaint/ [demandprogress.org] the subject is actually accused of EMBEDDING, not linking. That is, he is alleged to have embedded copyrighted video streams (and/or their surrounding pages) inside his own site with surrounding ad content, instead of linking the user to the actual hosting web site. The major mistake by ICE appears to be a failure to actually use the word "embed" in their complaint. I would expect a takedown or lawsuit if I did this, so it's difficult for me to be surprised. Of course, that's no reason not to retrieve the links from the Internet Wayback Machine and (properly) link them from all of our home pages.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @08:56AM (#35470782) Journal

    Google links to copyrighted material. The Pirate Bay links to copyrighted material. That didn't stop Swedish courts from ruling against Pirate Bay, and still Google operates.

    I mean, you're right and all, but don't expect that to provide any protection for this guy. We are well past the stage where the rule of law means anything in the US. There are different standards for the powerful, and for those who would challenge the powerful.

  • by Munden (681257) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @08:56AM (#35470784)

    ...is linking to an article that fails to mention how McCarthy has made made over $90,000 in ad revenue from his website.

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/03/illegal-tv-streamers-heres-how-the-feds-will-hunt-you-down.ars [arstechnica.com]

    His website was dedicated solely for the purpose of copyright infringement

    Why is copyright infringement an issue of homeland security? It is a federal law, it has to be assigned to someone, and The United States district courts has exclusive subject-matter jurisdiction over copyright cases. IMO, you should learn about copyright law and history - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_copyright_law [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:DHS (Score:3, Informative)

    by swalve (1980968) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @08:59AM (#35470808)
    ICE is Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The customs enforcement part of that mission is a lot of finding cargo containers full of pirated DVDs. Content pirating on the web falls into that. (Note: it is a federal/customs issue because copyright involves treaties with other nations.)
  • Re:question (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hatta (162192) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @09:03AM (#35470822) Journal

    A single act of linking to copyrighted material is not criminal, but if you systematically do it, aren't you "inducing infringement?" That's copyright infringement under current law.

    Sounds like a a pretty clear violation of the First Amendment.

    It's like he believes Bush is still President or something.

    If you look at the policies of the US government, you'd be hard pressed to tell that Bush isn't still President. Same shit, different guy.

  • by bratwiz (635601) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @11:57AM (#35472216)

    I believe the government is applying the wrong standard with respect to Web Links (URL's) and copyrights. They claim that creating a link creates a copyright. However, I strenuously believe that people are confusing the idea of "creating a copyrightable work" with the "mechanism of indexing and accessing" a work. URL's are no more copyrightable than the Dewey Decimal label is on a book in the public library. The fact that links (URL's) are a little more high-tech than the Dewey Decimal label on a book does not change it's fundamental essence.

    The question is, could ICE or any government authority shut down or *confiscate* the Dewey Decimal label on a public library book simply because you referenced that book (or other material) by its *Common Cataloging System INDEX* in some public manner???

    Linking to a web site is no different than saying "Go read this book at the public library, here is it's catalog number". An link *in and of itself* does *NOT* provide or imply *ACCESS* to the item, rather simply a pointer to it's location. Likewise, the idea of "Deep Linking" is no different as it is simply saying "Go read book XYZ on page 37".

    The notion that the link (URL) itself provides "meaning" is simply ludicrous-- of course it does. And in a manner that's long been established as LEGAL and USEFUL and USED by libraries and media referencing systems all over the world-- for well over a hundred years, and probably longer than that. Even the United States own Library of Congress uses indexing schemes to catalog and reference their materials. The fact that a link contains meaningful information is a fundamental property and the very essence of creating a referencing catalog scheme. You can take the Dewey Decimal label from any book, for instance, and discern meaningful information about the nature of the work referenced simply by knowing the algorithm (naming / numbering conventions) incorporated by the scheme. The fact that web links (URL's) have the ability to be more descriptive is a function of the *INDEXING* mechanism, even if it is somehow technically made available to the author to suggest. It is no different than an author attempting to influence the librarian to catalog the material in one section rather than another.

    Moreover, the courts have upheld many times that it is NOT a copyright infringement to publish a REFERENCE work containing even literal quoted passages from the original source as long as it is constructed in the manner of a catalog, all quotations are duly cited, and the work is "transformative". In other words, stands alone apart from the original quoted work in a substantive manner. In the case of linking to a web site, the author (person doing the linking) is not necessarily even quoting anything other than the INDEX of the cataloging method used to house and access the material. However, even if the title, author, etc. of that work were referenced, it is no different than going to the public library and pulling up the "link" to the exact same information stored in their card catalog system. In fact, in many cases, the card catalog even contains a brief synopsis of the source material, quotations, or other direct passages from the original material.

    Finally, even if the person who put the links up online and then proceeded to laugh and make jokes or otherwise reference them, *that very act* begins a transformative process which is IN ITSELF a *copyrightable* element! So creating a page and linking to other sites *IS* in and of itself, a copyrightable act! And the more that is said in reference to those links, provided they do not incorporate substantive direct quotation of the material-- the *better* the argument that a new copyrightable work is being derived. There is tons of relevant precedent in the application of "Fair Use", "Derivative Works", "Satire" or "Parody", etc. to give someone an extremely good legal footing to claim that a substantially new work is being created, if incporporated into a larger framework. However, that said, simply claiming "Fair Use" or a

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