Brits living overseas always appreciate reminders of their former home, such as a refreshing cup of PG Tips tea or access to a morning paper. But for countless expats being able to watch a UK-produced TV show is the thing that makes them feel most at home, if only for a few minutes each week.
For almost a decade, Brits everywhere have been accessing UK TV programming via one of the Internet’s longest-standing torrent sites. Founded in 2003, UKNova was created to enable people to see programs they would not normally be able to watch, either due to geographical restrictions or an inability to watch during the alloted broadcast time.
Going much further than most torrent sites, UKNova has a published set of ethical guidelines designed to protect the revenue streams of companies who make money from DVD sales and premium channels. But the existence of this code clearly means nothing to the big corporations behind FACT, the Federation Against Copyright Theft.
“UKNova is being forced to change. We have been issued with a ‘cease and desist’ order by FACT (The Federation Against Copyright Theft),” the site’s operators said in an announcement last evening.
“We got the [cease and desist] which quoted FACT’s remit and a list of member Companies,” a site admin told TorrentFreak.
“There was one very big UK satellite provider some of whose content (a tiny percentage from their basic package) was available on UKN, there was also a football production company. The remaining members represent post-transmission marketing of DVDs etc. The major UK TV companies are not FACT members and were not mentioned.”
UKNova did not name the FACT members quoted in the cease and desist, but the only satellite TV provider counted as a FACT member is Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB. The only football company is the Premier League.
Once UKNova were aware that these two companies wanted their content removed, the site acted immediately.
“We immediately removed the alleged offending links to content that could be [connected to] the two companies and replied to FACT assuring them of our cooperation in the matter, but asking them to point out examples of potentially offending links,” a UKNova admin told us.
“ALL links or access to content provided by UKNova are infringing, unless you can prove that you have obtained explicit permission from the copyright holder for that content,” was FACT’s response.
As touched on earlier, UKNova has strict rules about what cannot be uploaded to the site. They maintain a large “Not Allowed List” which details TV shows that are being exploited commercially on DVD, premium TV or pay-per-view, and are therefore banned from UKNova.
“UKNova has always prided itself in avoiding damage to [rightsholder] revenue streams. For this reason any show that is released to DVD is not allowed and coverage of running series was often stopped before the end due to imminent DVD release,” TorrentFreak was told.
“Similarly we have never allowed PPV shows or content from premium pay channels, nor do we even allow references to where to obtain commercially available material in our forums. This has stood us in good stead over the years and previously we have had next to no complaints; those that we have had were quickly settled with the copyright holders.”
Today, however, the highly-valued UKNova tracking service will be shut down, and it is difficult to fault the tough decision taken by the site’s operators. The very public four-year sentence handed to SurfTheChannel owner Anton Vickerman this month will not have gone unnoticed.
“The people who run UKNova have families, careers and professional reputations that could be menaced by lengthy legal proceedings, whether successful or not. Whilst we believe that FACT are wrong both legally and morally on account of the strong ‘no commercial content’ stance that we have always taken, we are not in a position to be able to risk lengthy and costly court battles to prove this,” a site admin told us.
“It is a sad day when a site whose mission has always been to bring much-missed UK TV to ex-pats and Anglophiles at the four corners of the world is forced to stop this activity. Nobody will be plugging a huge revenue hole because we are gone, but tens of thousands of avid viewers will suffer.”
UKNova’s forum community will continue but its users will source their TV shows from elsewhere, on sites such as The Pirate Bay that couldn’t care less about rightsholder revenue streams.
NB. We’ve reserved a 1×1 pixel space at the very end of this article in which to reproduce TPB’s “do not upload” list.