[JURIST] The United Kingdom’s High Court of Justice [official website] ruled [judgment text, PDF] on Thursday for the Motion Picture Association (MPAA) [corporate website], requiring internet provider British Telecom (BT) [corporate website] to block access to a file-sharing website, Newzbin2 [official website]. Newzbin2 is an aggregator of content, but does not develop any illegal content itself, simply making the content more accessible. BT recently developed a filtering service that prevents its users from accessing child pornography, which the court now requires it implement to block Newzbin2, but not other file-sharing sites. Although the filtering system can be evaded, Justice Richard Arnold said if the system stops a minority of users from file-sharing, it is enough, and rejected arguments that users of BT did not have knowledge of copyright infringement. However, Arnold downplayed the possibility of a “wave” of suits to block other file-sharing sites.
Turning to other websites that provide access to infringing copies of copyright material, I accept that it is likely that rightholders will wish to obtain similar orders relating to those. It should be borne in mind, however, that in this case the Studios started from the point that they had already obtained judgment against Newzbin Ltd. Even so, the Studios have had to obtain and put before the Court a substantial quantity of evidence in support of the present application. In addition, the application involved the preparation by counsel for the Studios of a lengthy and detailed skeleton argument, a two-day hearing and written submissions following the hearing. Thus this will have been a costly application for the Studios to bring. … Furthermore, although I cannot prejudge later arguments in this case, it is not inevitable that future applicants will recover all their costs even if successful. … For these reasons, even if the present application is successful, I think it is clear that rightholders will not undertake future applications lightly. On the contrary, I consider it probable that they will concentrate their resources on seeking relief in respect of the more egregious infringers. I therefore do not anticipate a flood of such applications.
The MPAA declared [press release] the ruling a great victory, and said it rejects the arguments that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have no responsibility to fight copyright infringement. Open Rights Group [advocacy website], a group devoted to protecting internet freedoms, called the blocking “pointless and dangerous” [press release].
The British Department for Business Innovation and Skills [official website] in 2009 proposed stricter sanctions [JURIST report] against illegal file-sharing that would include restricting and suspending user Internet access. The changes targeted repeat offenders by requiring ISPs to block download sites, reduce a user’s broadband speeds and ultimately shut down the user’s Internet access. Costs to implement these measures would be shared between users and service providers. This eventually became the Digital Economy Act [materials] passed in 2010. It is currently under judicial review.