FACT, the UK-based Federation Against Copyright Theft, managed to get SportsDevil taken off of Github. The application was used to access streams of sports content, which FACT said violated the rights of copyright holders. Interestingly, they said it was “likely” that this was happening, but SportsDevil actually provided no content of its own. It merely allowed users to find streams.
FACT managed to get the application taken offline along with nearly 50 configuration files that the program used as pointers to links, according to reporting in TorrentFreak. The agency said that the application was scraping the web for illegal broadcasts and, thus, was used specifically for copyright infringement.
Unfortunately, this seems to set a poor precedent. There are many programs, including SickBeard, CouchPotato and others, that can be used in ways that FACT would, no doubt, find objectionable. Those same programs, like SportsDevil, provide no content of their own. Much as a driver can use a car to get back and forth from work or to drag race on a busy street, what users do with these applications is entirely up to them, but the applications themselves violate no one’s copyrights.
TorrentFreak notes that there are some irregularities with the FACT takedown notice. Unlike most such notices, this notice doesn’t reference any laws. FACT is a UK organization and Github is located in the US. The takedown notice references laws in neither of those nations.
The application seems to have been taken down based wholly on suspicions and nothing more. It could provide access to illegal streams, but can provide access to entirely legal streams, as well. The Github site itself does allow developers to fix any issues that might have led to a DMCA request, which is a plus, but the developers of SportsDevil did not do so, hence, the application is gone.
This could feasibly set a standard where copyright holders and the agencies that represent them are allowed a great deal of power over what developers are allowed to share on the Internet. What’s more, apparently, those copyright holders and representative agencies don’t even have to reference a law to get applications removed. It’s the type of situation that might make Kafka blush, were he still alive.
With FACT lowering the bar for getting legitimate projects pulled from Github to “likely” violations of copyrights, it seems like there are few boundaries to protect developers or the people who rely on their software for legitimate purposes.