BT has been given 14 days to block access to a website accused of promoting illegal filesharing “on a grand scale” by Hollywood studios, in the first high court ruling of its kind under UK copyright law.
Justice Arnold handed down a written judgement to BT – which, with about 6 million customers, is the UK’s biggest Internet service provider – to block its customers’ access to the website Newzbin2 at the high court in London.
The judge backed the argument brought by a coalition of Hollywood studios, including Warner Bros, Paramount, Disney, Universal, Fox and Columbia, which have argued that Newzbin2 has made millions profiting from exploiting other people’s work.
The court order also allows for the blocking of any other IP or Internet address that the operators of the Newzbin2 site might look to use to continue to offer copyrighted content to users.
The judge said that limiting the blocking order to the Newzbin2 site would be “too easily circumvented to be effective” because the site’s owners have already made available software that could allow users to get around a BT block.
He backed the studios’ proposal that BT should also move to block “any other IP address or URL whose sole or predominant purpose is to enable or facilitate access to the Newzbin website”.
“Furthermore, I do not consider that the studios should be obliged to return to court for an order in respect of every single IP address or URL that the operators of Newzbin2 may use,” he added.
The court said BT must foot the bill for the cost of implementing the web block on Newzbin2.
BT, which argued that the creative industries should pay, has estimated the cost to be about £5,000 and £100 for each subsequent notification.
Arnold rejected an attempt by BT to include an undertaking for the studios to reimburse the telecoms company for any losses it might incur from a site being blocked, such as from any legal action to fight the move.
The judge also said BT customers would not be able to make claims against the company for breach of contract because its broadband package is covered under an acceptable use policy that explicitly says copyright must not be infringed.
The order is viewed by the creative industries as a landmark that could set a precedent for the widespread blocking of illegal filesharing websites by ISPs, helping to stem the flow of digital piracy in the UK.
According to Peter Bradwell, campaigner from Open Rights Group, “website blocking simply will not work. It’s a dangerous technological intervention when the legal markets are still a mess. Consumers have moved online a lot quicker than the creative industries. The focus should be on making sure they catch up with consumer demand instead of these deranged plans to censor what people are allowed to look at,” he stated.