Hollywood forces BT to ban filesharing site

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Illegal filesharing websites face a fight to survive after Hollywood film studios won a landmark High Court ruling forcing BT to block access to a site providing links to illegal downloads of films, music and games.

The decision paves the way for the record companies, film studios and other copyright owners – like the Premier League – to force the rest of the major UK internet providers to ban filesharing sites.

In what is thought to be a legal first, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) took BT to court under the 1988 Copyright, Design and Patents Act in its capacity as an internet service provider (ISP), rather than the source of alleged pirated content. Frustrated in its attempts to shut down a site called Newzbin2, it wanted to force BT to "block or at least impede access" by its subscribers.

Mr Justice Arnold said the studios, including 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and Disney, "made it clear that this is a test case," and intend to seek similar orders against the UK's other major ISPs. He said Newzbin2, which has around 700,000 members, provided the means for "continued large-scale infringement of the studios' copyrights".

The judge said he did not "anticipate a flood of... applications" against other ISPs. But an industry insider disagreed, saying cases are likely when a formal ruling against BT is handed down in the coming months.

He said other sectors of the creative industries were likely to seek to force all five of the UK's major ISPs to block filesharing sites.

Chris Marcich, president and managing director of MPA Europe called yesterday's ruling "a victory for millions of people working in the UK creative industries". A spokesman for the Open Rights Group called website blocking "pointless and dangerous".