High Court rules BT must block pirate web site

By Derek du Preez
28 Jul 2011 View Comments
High Court London

The High Court has ruled that BT must block user access to notorious piracy web site Newzbin2. The ruling - a legal first - is in line with measures written into the controversial Digital Economy Act.

The Motion Picture Association (MPA), supported by the creative industries, won the order requiring BT to block the Newzbin2 web site, which makes unlawful copies of films and television programmes without permission from the copyright holders.

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This is the first time the High Court has made such a ruling, and it is likely that this will pave the way for future site blocking.

"The Studios have made it clear that this is a test case: if they are successful in obtaining an order against BT, then they intend to seek similar orders against all the other significant ISPs in the UK," said Justice Arnold prior to the announcement today.

"The other ISPs were invited to intervene in the present application if they so wished, but have not done so," Arnold added.

Chris Marcich, president and managing director (EMEA) at MPA, said he was pleased with the outcome and insisted that the likes of BT need to be amenable in their approach to dealing with such issues.

"The ruling from Justice Arnold is a victory for millions of people working in the creative industries and demonstrates that the law of the land must apply online," said Marcich.

"This court action was never an attack on ISPs but we do need their cooperation to deal with the Newzbin site, which continually tries to evade the law and judicial sanction."

This ruling follows a long succession of developments around web site blocking, with ISPs, digital rights groups, the creative industries and the courts in almost constant dispute over the best course of action for the UK.

In February of this year it emerged that the government had ordered a working group to find a ‘Plan B' to the Digital Economy Act that would make proposals to block web sites more palatable to ISPs and their users. It was believed that the likes of communications minister Jeremy Hunt, BT, Universal Music, Google and TalkTalk were involved in discussions.

Further to this, in April the High Court ruled in favour of the government in a judicial review of the measures used to tackle online copyright infringement in the Digital Economy Act.

BT and TalkTalk had prompted the review in November 2010, claiming that the Act was not enforceable under EU law, but the government was given the green light to go ahead with its plans to monitor ISP networks and issue warning letters to alleged illegal downloaders.

BT believes that today's announcement highlights that rights holders need to prove their argument over copyright infringement in court before any blocking can be carried out.

"This is a helpful judgment, which provides clarity on this complex issue. It clearly shows that rights holders need to prove their claims and convince a judge to make a court order," said a BT spokesperson.

Peter Bradwell, copyright campaigner at digital rights body the Open Rights Group, argues that the courts have made a mistake in taking such action.

"Web site blocking is pointless and dangerous. These judgments won't work to stop infringement or boost creative industries. And there are serious risks of legitimate content being blocked and service slowdown," said Bradwell.

"If the goal is boosting creators' ability to make money from their work then we need to abandon these technologically naive measures, focus on genuine market reforms, and satisfy un-met consumer demand."

It is predicted that digital piracy could cost Europe approximately £210bn by 2015.

 

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