The High Court has ordered a group of ISPs to block access to the “Popcorn Time” application for copyright film and TV content, in Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and others v Sky UK Ltd and others. Birss J had refused to determine the case without a hearing due to the special technical nature of the application involved. In this case, the infringing content was obtained by users through the Popcorn Time application, and not from the websites from which the application was downloaded (as distinguished from streaming or BitTorrent sites, which communicated the content directly to users). Birss J took the view that the target websites could not be said to be “communicating” copyright content to the public by merely making the Popcorn Time tool available to download. Nevertheless, Birss J expressly acknowledged that the purpose of the application was to infringe copyright. He also noted that the application made it much easier for users to access copyright content hosted on various third party websites, through a user-friendly service which was constantly updated. This was not merely a passive means for accessing protected content, but amounted to a “common design” to communicate protected works to the public. Accordingly he found the suppliers of the Popcorn Time application jointly liable with the operators of the websites hosting the infringing content. He was also satisfied that the defendants’ services were being used as an essential means to infringe copyright, justifying the grant of a blocking injunction.
Although this decision marks another victory for rights holders under s.97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, the Court was careful to remind prospective claimants that the correct legal basis of every claim under s.97A must be identified “with precision” by reference to the specific facts of each case.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and others v Sky UK Ltd and others  EWHC 1082 (Ch)