BT Awaits Court Decision Over Pirate Website Block

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BT is locked in a high court appearance over whether it must block access to a file-sharing website

BT is currently locked in a three day appearance at the High Court in London, as Hollywood studios seek an injunction to force BT to block access to a file-sharing website.

The court case began on Tuesday 28 June and the hearing is apparently scheduled to last three days, but could finish later today.

BT is waiting for the verdict after its legal team apparently argued in court that the injunction is just a “thin edge of the wedge.”

Hollywood Studios

BT has been taken to court by the Motion Picture Association (MPA), which represents Hollywood studios such as Warner Bros, Fox, Disney and Paramount Pictures outside the United States. The MPA is seeking an injunction to force BT to block its broadband customers from accessing a file-sharing website called Newzbin.

The Newzbin website is members-only and apparently offers links to film, television, music, as well as software downloads.

The MPA undertook a similar legal move back in December last year when it filed an injunction against BT, requiring it to block access to Newzbin2. However that injunction failed to stop the illegal downloads, because the operator of the site simply put itself into administration, and then relocated overseas, outside the reach of British courts.

The MPA is therefore now trying to get BT to block access to the site, instead of trying to force it offline.

However BT is reportedly arguing in court that if the judges grant the injunction, forcing it to block its internet customers from accessing the Newzbin2 website, it will be the “thin end of the wedge” leading to hundreds of injunctions being applied for by content owners.

BT told eWEEK Europe UK it cannot provide any comment, as the legal case is ongoing.

Appeal Likely

However it seems highly likely that BT will appeal if an injunction is granted, especially as BT was one of the ISPs (alongside TalkTalk) that spearheaded the High Court fight to overturn the Digital Economy Act’s (DEA) copyright measures.

Under the terms of the UK’s DEA, ISPs could be expected to hand over the IP addresses of anyone caught committing online copyright infringement to rights holders. However, opposition to the DEA is strong, with ISPs and rights activists alike complaining that the Act’s measures did not receive sufficient scrutiny when the bill was pushed through Parliament in the final days of the then Labour government.

Earlier this month, the United Nations said that the Digital Economy Act, with its ability to cut off Internet access, violates our human rights.

It seems that the MPA singled out BT for special treatment because it is the UK’s largest ISP with 5.3 million customers. BT also uses the Cleanfeed system, which is used to block access to overseas websites that offer images of child abuse.

“The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) decide which illegal content to block,” explained a BT spokesman, speaking about the Cleanfeed system. “Cleanfeed prevents BT customers from inadvertently stumbling across the websites hosting this illegal content.”

Other ISPs can (and do) utilise Cleanfeed for their own customers.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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