Richard Spearman QC successfully applies for website blocking orders in respect of Popcorn Time sites

Richard Spearman QC successfully applies for website blocking orders in respect of Popcorn Time sites


CategoryNews Author Richard Spearman QC Date

Richard represented the major Hollywood film Studios in the first, test case, application for a website blocking order under s97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). This resulted in the landmark rulings of Arnold J in Twentieth Century Fox Film Corpn v BT [2011] RPC 28 and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corpn v BT (No 2) [2011] EWHC 2714 (Ch). Since then Richard has obtained many orders for copyright owners against the UK’s major internet service providers (ISPs) concerning (among others) streaming sites and BitTorrent sites. Many of the applications for these orders have been dealt with on paper, and, over time, the form of order made by the Court has evolved, among other things to take account of the different technologies available to different ISPs to block access to infringing content. The sites that were sought to be blocked in the present case included so-called “Popcorn Time” websites, which raised new and different issues from those addressed in previous cases. These websites enable users to download and install one of a number of different forms of “Popcorn Time” application from a website (a PTAS website) which then maintains links with another website which is used as a source of update information (a SUI website). In this way the content available using the Popcorn Time applications through their links with peers and torrent catalogue websites is constantly updated, and in a manner that is controlled by the operators of the Popcorn Time sites. The Studios contended that the operators of the Popcorn Time websites used the services of the ISPs to infringe copyright in protected film and TV works in three ways (a) by communicating the works to the public contrary to s20(2)(b) CDPA, (b) by authorising the infringing communication to the public by (i) the operators of the websites which directly transmit the protected works (“the host websites”) to the users of the host websites and/or (ii) by those who place infringing content on the host websites, and (c) as joint tortfeasors with those described at (b)(i) and (ii). Birss J held that the case based on “communication to the public” and “authorisation” was not made out, but upheld the case based on “joint tortfeasance”. Accordingly, the application succeeded. See Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation & Ors v Sky UK Ltd & Ors [2015] EWHC 1082 (Ch) (28 April 2015)


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