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UPD Film Industry Take UK ISP BT to Court in Effort to Block a Newsgroup Website

Posted: 27th Jun, 2011 By: MarkJ
internet copyright lawpirate flagThe Motion Picture Association (MPA) and UK ISP BT will do battle in the courts (High Court) tomorrow over a case that could lead to every broadband provider in the country being forced into blocking access to any website that is deemed to be facilitating "illegal" internet copyright infringement (piracy).

The situation began in December 2010 when the MPA filed an injunction against BT which, using Section 97A of the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, required the provider to block access to a Newsgroup (Usenet) indexing website called Newzbin2.

An MPA Spokesman said (Telegraph):

"BT was chosen because it’s the largest and already has the technology in place, through its Cleanfeed system, to block the site. If this case is successful, we would hope that other ISPs would take note of the result."

The Cleanfeed system, which works alongside the Internet Watch Foundation ( IWF ), is currently being used by BT to block child sexual abuse content. Expanding this to include websites that allegedly "facilitate" internet copyright infringement is a highly contentious and costly issue.

UK Rights Holders and ISPs are already working to establish a new Voluntary Code of Practice, which would block any website that is deemed to "facilitate" internet copyright infringement (here and here). ISPs have so far refused to accept such a system unless an impartial judge is brought in to have the final say, thus shielding them from legal retaliation and preventing Rights Holders from blocking perfectly legal sites (e.g. BitTorrent Corporate, TorrentFreak etc.).

However, legal issues are not the only concern, and ISPs are also worried about the costs of implementation (Cleanfeed cost BT around £500k to develop). This would push up prices at a time when many consumers are already angry about the rising cost of inflation and a faltering economy. On top of that such systems can sometimes degrade ISP performance and are easy to circumvent.

In fairness this case is somewhat exceptional because the MPA had already succeeded in stopping the original Newzbin website, which promptly went into administration and then simply returned in another country as Newzbin2, much to the annoyance of Rights Holders.

As a result the Rights Holders see this as an "important test case" and one that could easily have a dramatic impact upon current discussions. So far they haven't had much success in imposing such measures elsewhere (example) but that could easily change. Meanwhile BT said that it had "no further comment to make", at least not until after the case had concluded.

UPDATE 1st July 2011

Presiding Judge Arnold has said that he intends to wait until the outcome of a case between eBay and L'Oreal has been decided before passing his own judgement on the BT case. This is expected to take place around 12th July 2011.

The eBay case seeks to establish whether the firm is responsible for sponsored links of L'Oreal products, which apparently hinders L'Oreals attempts to prevent the sale of counterfeit and grey market goods via eBay's auction site.

This would of course have ramifications for the Newzbin case, which also carries links to copyright content; although the site itself does not store the unlawful content, which is instead held on remote and public newsgroup servers.
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