Seized Popcorn Time “News” Domain Sparks Free Speech Appeal

The battle over the legality of a seized Popcorn Time "news" domain is heating up. Last week a complaint by two digital rights groups was denied by a local court due to a lack of standing, but today they filed an appeal, joined by the legal owner of the disputed domain name.

popcorntMovie companies worldwide see Popcorn Time as one of the largest piracy threats against their businesses.

They are doing their best to put a halt to its popularity and are taking broad steps to contain it, sometimes with help from the authorities.

Earlier this year Norwegian rightsholders reported a local Popcorn Time site to the local economic crime police. Responding to this referral, the authorities seized the Popcorn-Time.no domain name.

While it uses Popcorn Time in the domain name the site didn’t host the application itself but instead posted news articles, as well as links to sites that offered the application.

This broad takedown of a news-focused site raised concerns with digital rights activists and legal experts. Not only is the legality of the site debated, but also the use of a far-reaching measure without a proper judicial review.

Hoping to hold the authorities accountable, Electronic Frontier Norway (EFN) and the Norwegian Unix User Group (NUUG) took the case to court. The main question they want answered is whether the domain seizure was appropriate in this case.

However, late last week the court refused to take on the case, arguing that both parties lacked standing, as they were not sufficiently affected by the domain seizure.

While it was a disappointing decision for the groups, it didn’t mark the end of the case. Today, EFN and NUUG filed an appeal and this time were joined by the legal owner of the domain name, the Norwegian company IMCASREG8.

IMCASREG8 didn’t run the site but acted as an intermediary between the operator of the domain and the registrar. On paper, they are the legal owner of the domain name.

Popcorn-time.no when it was still active

popcor-no

With the new party the groups hope to have sufficient standing to have the case heard. In their appeal there’s a strong focus on the free speech element, and they hope the court will clarify when domain seizures are appropriate.

“We feel that this is an important case that addresses the limits of free speech,” EFN’s managing director Tom Fredrik Blenning tells TorrentFreak.

NUUG leader Hans-Petter Fjeld adds that the authorities shouldn’t be allowed to seize the domain name of a news site, which writes about open source software that by itself is not infringing.

“Part of what makes us upset is that the domain name of a news site about a piece of free software that has both legal and illegal uses, has been seized without judicial scrutiny,” Fjeld says.

It is now up to the court to decide whether the appeal will be heard. For now, the Popcorn-Time.no site remains offline, flashing a police notice.

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