Gloucestershire police have confirmed that a 26-year-old Cheltenham man at the centre of an investigation into the website TV-Links was arrested under section 92 of the Trade Mark Act, on suspicion of supplying property with a registered trademark, without permission.
The man was taken into custody on Thursday last week after an investigation by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and the local trading standards office. Initial reports from FACT said he had been arrested for "offences relating to the facilitation of copyright infringement on the Internet".
TV-links, by all accounts, was (it is no more) a place where users could post links to content from TV shows, movies and so on, so that other web users could view them. The site didn't host the material directly, but did, according to reports, embed some video clips.
The man has not been charged with any offence, and has been released pending further investigation.
According to legal experts, the revelation that the 26 year-old was arrested under trademark law adds further uncertainty to an already cutting edge legal situation.
"I've never heard of using trademarks law for anything like this,"said Struan Robertson, legal eagle at Pinsent Masons, and editor of Out-Law.com.
"There are criminal provisions in the Trade Marks Act, but they are intended to catch the sale of counterfeit goods, not the supply of a service. I'd be surprised if the provision of links was found to be a criminal offence under the Trade Marks Act."
Indeed, section 92 is very clear that:
"A person does not commit an offence under this section unless- (a) the goods are goods in respect of which the trade mark is registered, or (b) the trade mark has a reputation in the United Kingdom and the use of the sign takes or would take unfair advantage of, or is or would be detrimental to, the distinctive character or the repute of the trade mark."
There has been no suggestion (so far) that TV-Links was involved in anything other than providing access, via web links, to copyrighted material.
Robertson speculated that they'd have a better chance of bringing a case for copyright offenses, but even that would be on new legal ground.
"They'd have to show that he was distributing or communicating copyrighted works. And that is a legal argument to be had between the prosecution and defence. It sounds like they are trying to crow-bar activity that looks wrong into laws that aren't really designed to deal with it," he told us.
We contacted the Federation Against Copyright Theft, but the organisation offered no further comment on what it describes as an ongoing investigation. ®