A web site that allowed users to record television programmes remotely for later online viewing — and lend copies to other users — has been taken offline. TVCatchup was restricted to users within the United Kingdom, but has been shut down by its hosting provider. It apparently follows complaints from broadcasters about the legally dubious network personal video recorder service.

A statement posted on the web site apologised for what it described as a temporary interruption to service. It said that TVCatchup was aware of concerns from broadcasters over the free personal video recording service.

On 15 February its hosting was terminated without warning and TVCatchup says it presumes this was at the request of broadcasters. It added that the company “has therefore voluntarily suspended its services whilst the concerns of the broadcasters are addressed.”

TVCatchup has proved to be a popular but controversial service since its launch. The service aimed to make money from selling advertising on its web site through WPP subsidiary 24/7 Real Media.

Its providers have maintained that the service is legal, a view apparently not shared by British broadcasters.

Co-founder Adam Smith was previously quoted as saying that “legally they can do nothing about it,” claiming that the service is covered by time-shifting exemptions in copyright law.

That assumption seemed optimistic, if not naive. Lawyers have questioned whether such services are covered by the exemption, which applies only to domestic recordings.

Broadcasters are aiming to provide their own online video catch-up services and are themselves constrained by rights issues. It is difficult to see how they could allow initiatives such as TVCatchup continue uncontested.