The UK high court’s decision to instruct BT to block access to Newzbin, a website that links to allegedly illegal copyright material, will do little to dampen either online piracy or emotional debate about it.
BT said in a statement, “This is a helpful judgement, which provides clarity on this 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 (through the courts). We will return to court after the summer to explain what kind of order we believe is appropriate.”
BT and TalkTalk are appealing an earlier decision to reject their appeal against their loss of a judicial review to set aside parts of the UK’s controverisal Digital Economy Act that deal with online piracy.
Reacting to the Newzbin decision Peter Bradwell, copyright campaigner at the Open Rights Group said, “Website blocking is pointless and dangerous. These judgements won’t work to stop infringement or boost creative industries. And there are serious risks of legitimate content being blocked and service slowdown.
“If the goal is boosting creators’ ability to make money from their work then we need to abandon these technologically naive measures, focus on genuine market reforms, and satisfy unmet consumer demand.”
ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman said, “ISPA has long maintained that this is an issue that rights holders should seek to address in court, rather than through voluntary means, and today’s ruling should go some way to offering clarity on what is a complex area.”
Landsman said he was concerned about over-blocking, the ease of circumvention and increased use of encryption. These were ” widely-recognised”, which meany blocking would not stop online copyright infringement.
“Rather, as the government-commissioned Hargreaves Review recently found, there should be more focus on offering innovative, fully-licensed content services to give consumers what they are clearly demanding,” he said.
Pirate Party UK, which campaigns for an “open internet”, said on Twitter, “Hollywood’s win in the Newzbin case is a disaster for ordinary UK internet users. This could open the internet censorship floodgates.”
The decision comes less than a week after EMI’s former COO of new music and president of digital business, Douglas Merrill, reportedly claimed that EMI’s own research showed the peer to peer downloaders were in fact the music company’s best clients.
According to reports by ComputerWorld Australia, the TorrentFreak blog and Cory Doctorow on the Boing Boing blog, Merrill, a former Google CIO, said they used illegal download sites to sample music before buying the CDs of those they liked best.
The Newzbin case relates to videos and films, rather than to music, but the trade bodies that represent both industries have worked together in the past, notably on the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta).
According to a new assessment of the legality of Acta under European law, “Acta was controversial both in terms of the process and the substance of the neotations. The decision to maintain secrecy (from October 2007) until the release of draft text in mid-2010 was to prove a significant handicap to public understanding and support of the treaty.”
The study, by the policy department of the European Commission’s external policies department, found that the provisions against online piracy had been very watered down from the original proposals.
However, it found that ACTA extended criminal measures of indirect commercial benefit. This may contradict the European parliament’s position that acts “carried out by private users for personal and not-for-profit purposes” were to be excluded, it said.
The assessment also said there is no “three-strikes” provision that calls for internet service providers to cut off internet access to infringers, but ISPs are required to provide information about subscribers to rightsholders on request.
“However, this provision is not mandatory. There is no requirement for takedown notices. However, the normal producdures for injunctions and provisional measures will be applied in the digital environment,” it said.