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Open Rights Group UK Pushes for ISP Website Blocking Orders to be Public

Thursday, Aug 15th, 2013 (12:25 pm) - Score 1,337

The Open Rights Group has applied to have a procedural judge (a ‘Master’) in the UK High Court investigate their request for the court orders (injunctions), those related to website blocking, to be made public. Rights Holders use these when forcing big ISPs to censor specific websites (e.g. Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents).

The move follows this week’s big news about hundreds of legal websites being incorrectly blocked because of an error by the Premier League (here). The ORG thus believes that “publication of the orders should benefit everyone” by encouraging “accountability, fewer errors and less confusion about what is happening“.

Jim Killock, ORG’s Executive Director, said:

ISPs are often reluctant to share the orders with us, despite the fact they are ‘public documents’. Possibly they feel that copyright owners asking for the orders may find publication by an ISP provocative. This means we are obliged to ask the courts for the documents, in order that we can publish and analyse their contents.

Unfortunately, court officials so far have turned down ORG’s requests for copies of the blocking orders. They have done this because, they say, ‘judgment has not been entered’ or ‘service has not been acknowledged’.

We think court orders ought normally to be easily accessible to the public at all stages of litigation. At present the rules governing access to court documents only permit access to these orders as of right once the litigation has finished. The courts seem to be treating blocking injunctions as if they were like temporary injunctions made while proceedings are still going on. In fact the injunctions are the end of the section 97A process. Nothing more is intended to happen.”

In fairness the blocks are somewhat dynamic in that the site addresses (URLs) and IP numbers are constantly changing and thus need to be frequently updated (whack-a-mole style). On top of that there may be some concern that publication could merely serve to advertise any sites that the court wants censored, which is perhaps a moot point since nearly everybody seems to report the blocks.

The ORG now hopes to persuade the ‘Master’ that a section 97A blocking injunction should be “treated like any final judgment in court and be available to the public as of right” and if that fails then they’ll “ask the Master’s permission to have access to the orders“.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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