BT Plod – Newzbin 2 goes in favour of content owners

August 2011

Internet, all areas
By Cassandra Williams

The ruling in the High Court by Mr Justice Arnold in “Newzbin2”has as been heralded as a victory for copyright owners and a blow to a “free” internet. BT have lost a test case action which means that BT must block access to a website which provides links to pirated movies.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPA), representing a number of movie studios including Warner, Disney and Fox, had already shut down an original version of Newzbin which linked to illegal content.  They now launched the legal action to close down “Newzbin 2” and they wanted BT to block Newzbin with the same system that stops access to sites hosting child sex abuse images. BT fought the case stating that they did not wish to be forced into a position where they effectively have to police the internet and the customers for whom they are supposed to be providing a service.

Richard Spearman QC, arguing for the MPA 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.” Antony White QC , arguing for BT claimed 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”.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Arnold stated: “In my judgment it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright: it knows that the users and operators of Newzbin 2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes.”…..”It knows that the users of Newzbin 2 include BT subscribers, and it knows those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin 2.”

In setting out his ruling that BT must block access to the site he has paved the way for other sites to be blocked as part of a major crackdown on piracy, The MPA have signaled its intention to pursue other ISPs. BT has decided not to appeal the ruling.


According to the BBC, the government is also considering the feasibility of more widespread site blocking, including looking at the possibility of a voluntary scheme between ISPs and rightsholders. After the 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”. it seems that a voluntary scheme is still has a long way to go.

Spyro Markesinis, Vice-President (Business and Legal Affairs) for 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.”
Digital rights organisation the Open Rights Group said the result could set a “dangerous” precedent. “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,”

BT and Talk Talk also had a set back with the Judicial review of the Digital Economy Act, they argued that the legislation was rushed through Parliament and was unenforceable however the court ruled that the legislation could be implemented.

it appears that the tide is turning and the days of free and unencumbered internet access are coming to a close, rather than following the open system adopted by the Swedish we seem to be following more in the vein of the American model and whilst this is seemingly good news for copyright holders the worry is where will it end?

NewzBin 1: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and others v Newzbin Ltd [2010] EWHC 608 (Ch))

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