Did British courts strike a major blow to opponents of Internet censorship today? A landmark ruling is forcing an Internet Service Provider to block access to an alleged piracy site.
For the first time in the United Kingdom, a British court has ordered an ISP to block a specific website due to concerns of piracy according to the BBC. The suit against a members-only, file sharing site called Newzbin 2 was brought to U.K. courts by the Motion Picture Association. The MPA accused Newzbin 2 of supporting users that shared illegal copies of movies on the site. This ruling sets a precedent in the U.K. and supports further lawsuits to be brought against sites suspected of illegal file sharing activity.
The U.K. Internet service provider BT is being directed to use software called CleanFeed, a program used to block child pornography by several ISPs. BT is not planning on appealing the ruling and is meeting with the MPA in court during October to figure out a timeline for this implementation. According to estimates of the MPA, the Newzbin 2 site takes in about $1.5 million per year from approximately 700,000 members. In a previous case in 2010, the High Court in London ordered Newzbin to remove all copyrighted material from the site. Newzbin responded by shutting down and launched Newzbin 2 under a new jurisdiction to avoid further prosecution.
Other European countries, like Italy, have instituted site blocking through ISPs. Opponents of Internet censorship reacted negatively against today’s ruling. According to The Guardian, people against the ruling struck up concerns about overuse of blocking sites, blocking legitimate content and reliance on outside forces, like the MPA, to control what content the public is allowed to see. Proponents of the ruling focused on the empowerment of copyright holders in protecting content.
Before the ruling was announced today, a representative of Newzbin 2 threatened to navigate around the content filters found in the CleanFeed software. Experts that use the CleanFeed software claim that the program wasn’t designed for blocking content other than child pornography and adapting it to block Newzbin 2 will be difficult.