The Motion Picture Association (MPA) has won a high court battle to force BT to block access to a website used to access pirated material. This is the first time a court has ruled that an ISP should be forced to block such a website. Newzbin 2, the website in question, allows members to download illegally copied material from Usenet forums, a common way for distributing pirated material. The MPA asked various major ISPs to block the website last September, but none agreed to do so without a court order.
"In my judgment it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright: it knows that the users and operators of Newzbin2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes.
It knows that the users of Newzbin 2 include BT subscribers, and it knows those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin 2."Ruling by Justice Arnold
This may set a precedent for music/movie industry bodies to come forward and ask for other sites which enable unlawful file sharing to be blocked in a similar way. This could cause a huge headache for providers who have until now been able to use a 'mere conduit' defence for anything their network is used for, much like Royal Mail are not liable for blocking the distribution of illegal products through the postal service.
BT will have to add the website to its 'CleanFeed' service which is used to block access to sites distributing child sexual abuse images. In doing so, it may mean that CleanFeed will need beefing up as the service currently deals with a handful of websites and a limited amount of traffic, but it is likely to see many more hits if users trying to access the Newzbin 2 website find that this is restricted.
"This is a helpful judgement, 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. BT has consistently said that rights holders need to take this route. We will return to court after the summer to explain what kind of order we believe is appropriate."BT statement
The people behind the Newzbin 2 website threatened to take down any blocking that BT used for the site which they believed would be "trivially breakable".
"ISPA has long maintained that this is an issue that rights holders should seek to address in court, rather than through voluntary means, and today's ruling should go some way to offering clarity on what is a complex area.
However, concerns about over-blocking, ease of circumvention and increased encryption are widely-recognised which means that blocking is not a silver bullet to stop online copyright infringement. Rather, as the Government-commissioned Hargreaves Review recently found, there should be more focus on offering innovative, fully-licensed content services to give consumers what they are clearly demanding."Nicholas Lansman, ISPA Secretary General