Hollywood film studios are to ask the High Court to force UK telco BT to block its broadband customers from accessing a filesharing website, in a test case that could lead to a clampdown on Internet piracy, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The Motion Picture Association wants broadband providers to cut off access to Newzbin, a members-only website which offers links to film, television, music and software downloads.
A High Court order obtained last year against Newzbin itself failed to have any impact because its operator went into administration. The website then reappeared under new management overseas, outside the reach of British law, so the studios now aim to block access to it rather than force it offline.
A spokesman for Newzbin known only as ‘Mr White’ has said that further court attempts to shut Newzbin down would fail because “we can run faster than them [the MPA] and shapeshift”.
Lord Puttnam, the film producer and president of UK trade body the Film Distributors’ Association, said the continued existence of the website was “simply unacceptable”, noting that although the High Court found Newzbin guilty of infringing copyright and ordered it to stop, within a few weeks a new version appeared on the Internet. Lord Puttnam added that the action was an “important test case which we all hope will help us to prevent theft and infringement online”.
An MPA spokesman said the film industry had chosen to target BT because it is Britain’s biggest broadband provider, with 5.6 million customers, and has technology already in place that could be adapted to block Newzbin. “BT was chosen because it’s the largest and already has the technology in place, through its Cleanfeed system, to block the site,” she said. She hoped that if the case was successful, other ISPs would take note of the result.
The action marks the first time copyright holders have tried to force British broadband providers to apply web blocking technology to other material and has provoked serious concern among ISPs, who fear large costs and a slide towards censorship.
The court action is taking place against the backdrop government-hosted negotiations involving copyright holders and broadband providers regarding a potential voluntary blocking regime against websites involved in piracy.