In 2007, a man from the coastal town of Söderhamn in east-central Sweden drew the attention of TV channel Canal Plus. The 32 year-old ran a forum where fans could participate in chats about live hockey games, games ordinarily broadcast for a fee by Canal Plus.
However, due to the way the Canal Plus service was structured, it proved trivial for anyone to watch the games free of charge if they knew the direct URL. The problem here is that Canal Plus simply handed over the URLs to people who paid for the matches but since they were completed unprotected, people passed them onto friends. Making matters worse, at the time Canal Plus used the same URL time and again for all its hockey streams.
So, on two occasions in October and November 2007, at times when it was confirmed that approximately 25 people were using the fan site’s live chat facility, the man posted the URLs of the streams to his forum. Canal Plus were not amused.
In the summons against the man, Canal Plus called his actions “an assault on the entire operations of pay TV services on the Internet” and that by publishing links to the streams broadcast openly from the Canal Plus website he had illegally made them available to the public.
Yesterday, and despite Canal Plus being completely unable to show that anyone at all had clicked the links or viewed the streams, the Hudiksvall District Court found the man who posted the links guilty of copyright infringement. He was fined 3,500 kronor ($520) and ordered to pay 11,780 kronor ($1,747) in compensation to Canal Plus.
Although the fines may be almost laughably small by United States standards, this decision by the District Court has the potential to send shivers down the spine of anyone running a website who links to a media source, even when provided by an official outlet but not in accordance with their wishes.