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U.K. High Court orders ISP to block pirate site

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BT, a major UK internet provider, just lost a legal battle against the Motion Picture Association in which UK’s High Court ruled BT must block users from accessing a popular illegal download site. The MPA, the international arm of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Association of America, was successful in their bid to get an ISP to block traffic to Newzbin2, which keeps massive listings of movies and albums available for download on Usenet.

It’s a landmark case in that ISPs have historically tried to keep away from any judgement of the content they provide access to. For them, it’s more of an issue of avoiding expensive legal tie-ups, but for users that passivity meant they were guaranteed an open Internet. With this case on the books, the path is paved for increasing restrictions on piracy sites from an ISP standpoint, and the MPA has already announced it is going after other ISPs to block even more sites.

“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 Newbin2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the Studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes,” Justice Arnold, who presided over the case, said. “”It knows that the users of Newzbin2 include BT subscribers, and it knows those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin2.”

Newzbin2 was a revamp of Newzbin, a formerly successful piracy destination that was gagged by court order last year. Newzbin2 relaunched based offshore, and raked in over GBP1,000,000 in profits last year. By shutting down an operation that large, the MPA was understandably pleased with the decision. BT, on the other hand, was more aloof, saying that the decision “provides clarity” on 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,” BT said.

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