BT ordered to block piracy site

Hollywood film giants battling against online piracy today won a test case action in the High Court against the UK's biggest internet service provider.

They had urged a judge in London to grant an order which would force BT to cut off or impede customers' access to a website accused of "flagrant" copyright infringement.



Mr Justice Arnold, giving his reserved ruling in the case following a hearing last month, announced: "I will make an order substantially in the form sought by the studios."



Major studios, including Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures Corporation and Disney Enterprises brought the proceedings over the Newzbin2 website, which has around 700,000 members.



The action, brought on behalf of all members of the Motion Picture Association of America, is believed to be the first in Britain where an attempt is being made to force an internet provider to block a site under the 1988 Copyright, Design and Patents Act (CDPA).









Film-makers told the court they wanted BT to block Newzbin with the same system that stops access to sites hosting child sex abuse images.

Richard Spearman QC, arguing for an injunction on behalf of the applicants at the recent hearing, told the judge that the Newzbin copyright infringement was being carried out on a "grand scale".



The general economic impact of piracy on the film and TV industry was, he said, "nothing short of staggering".



He told the court: "If the order is not made, websites such as Newzbin will simply be able to move offshore, anonymise the individuals behind the website and cock a snook at the courts and at rights holders who put their trust in the courts."



BT contested the claim for an injunction, arguing that there is no jurisdiction for the court to make the order sought against it under the CDPA.



In written argument before the court, submitting that the injunction application should be dismissed, Antony White QC, for BT, argued that if the court ordered it to block access to the Newzbin2 website "there would be nothing to stop countless other claimants coming forward demanding that BT block other websites alleged to contain unlawful material".



After today's ruling Bt said in a statement: "This is a helpful judgment, 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.



"We will return to court after the summer to explain what kind of order we believe is appropriate."



Mr Justice Arnold said he was making an order that had been agreed between the parties pending a further hearing in October when the "precise wording" of the order would be dealt with.













Lord Puttnam, president of the Film Distributors' Association, said: "Today's result is an important victory in the battle against a commercial pirate site which refused to operate within the law.



"Finally, it seems we have a way to deal with rogue sites which will benefit the film industry, including UK independent distributors and, more broadly, the entire creative sector."



Chris Marcich, the Motion Picture Association's European president, said: "This ruling from Mr Justice Arnold is a victory for millions of people working in the UK creative industries and demonstrates that the law of the land must apply online.



"This court action was never an attack on ISPs but we do need their cooperation to deal with the Newzbin site which continually tries to evade the law and judicial sanction.



"Newzbin is a notorious pirate website which makes hundreds of thousands of copyrighted products available without permission and with no regard for the law."



Spyro Markesinis, vice-president (business and legal affairs), of Momentum Pictures, said: "Without licensing revenues, films simply cannot be funded or produced.



"If that means a film like The King's Speech may not be made in the future, the public, as well as those people whose livelihoods depend on film, will lose out.



"So we applaud the decision and look forward to working with the ISPs and the Government to keep the pressure up on the pirates and help safeguard the future of the industry."



Christine Payne, chairwoman of the Creative Coalition Campaign, a partnership between trade unions representing workers in the creative industries and organisations in the music, film, TV, publishing and sports sectors, said: "Thousands of businesses and millions of workers now know that the law of the land applies to the internet.



"Online copyright theft deprives businesses of up to 20% of their revenues every year. Finally, this little known law will help us to protect our property."



Richard Mollet, chief executive officer of The Publishers Association, said: "This is a great result and will benefit the whole of the creative sector.



"Online infringement has been allowed to run unchecked for far too long, damaging jobs and growth.



"It is satisfying to see that the Copyright Act gives the creative sector the ability to fight back."









Mr Justice Arnold said in his written judgment that the case was about the legal remedies that can be obtained to combat online copyright infringement.



The studios sought an injunction against BT under the CDPA which in essence was "intended to block or at least impede access by BT's subscribers" to Newzbin2.



He said: "The studios have made it clear that this is a test case: if they are successful in obtaining an order against BT, then they intend to seek similar orders against all the other significant ISPs in the UK."



Operators of the Newzbin2 website were unknown, but the operation appeared to have moved offshore and was "thus effectively beyond the reach of this court".



The judge said the website provided the means for "continued large-scale infringement of the studios' copyrights".



It was contended by the studios that, in those circumstances, the only way in which they can obtain "effective relief to prevent, or at least reduce the scale of, these infringements" was by means of an order against BT "and thereafter the other ISPs".



The problem of online copyright infringement "is by now a very well-known one", said the judge.



The studios relied on two recent studies of the scale of the problem relating to the film and television industries.



One study by Ipsos MediaCat in April 2010, analysing the scale of film and television piracy in the UK in 2009, estimated the overall loss from film piracy at £477 million and the overall loss from television piracy at £58 million.



A March 2010 study by Tera Consultants concluded that in 2008 the audio and audiovisual industries in the UK lost almost 670 million euros in revenues to physical and digital piracy, with the larger proportion of that lost revenue attributable to digital piracy.



The application by the studios "represents an attempt by copyright owners indirectly to enforce their rights in circumstances where direct enforcement has been tried and failed", said the judge.



He said it should be emphasised that BT "does not provide any services to the operators of the Newzbin2 website "and in particular it does not 'host' the website".



BT contended that the court had no jurisdiction to make the order sought by the studios, but the judge announced today that he had concluded that it does.



He said he did not "anticipate a flood of such applications"



The judge ruled that the order sought by the studios was a "proportionate" one and "the cost of implementation to BT would be modest and proportionate".



Mike O'Connor, chief executive of Consumer Focus, said: "Website blocking only treats the symptoms, not the cause of why consumers infringe copyright.



"Blocking access to Newzbin2 is shortsighted and will not reduce demand for Hollywood movies. Consumers will seek out other sources and the only long term solution is more and better legal alternatives."









PA

Suggested Topics
Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home