ISP Vodafone has begun blocking a pair of illicit streaming portals in unusual circumstances. Burning Series and Serial Stream were rendered inaccessible on Tuesday, but not as the result of a specific blocking injunction. The ISP says that following a
decision by the Federal Court of Justice in the summer, it felt compelled to block the sites following a request from a copyright holder.
The fact that ISPs around the world are blocking pirate sites to prevent copyright infringement is nothing
new. Aside from voluntary arrangements, such as the one currently playing out in Portugal, ISPs tend to wait for courts to hand down an injunction before blocking a site. In Germany, however, a new situation has raised its head.
subscribers to Vodafone discovered that they could no longer access streaming portals Burning Series (BS.to) and Serial Stream (S.to). Rather than accessing the thousands of TV shows usually on offer, they were instead met by a blocking message presented
by their ISP.
Both sites currently have messages on their main pages, explaining that Vodafone has chosen to block their platforms.
Open Rights Group today released figures that show that High Court injunctions are being improperly administrated by ISPs and rights holders.
A new tool added to its
blocked.org.uk project examines over 1,000 domains blocked under the UK's 30 injunctions against over 150 services,
ORG found 37% of those domains are blocked in
error, or without any legal basis. The majority of the domains blocked are parked domains, or no longer used by infringing services. One Sci-Hub domain is blocked without an injunction, and a likely trademark infringing site, is also blocked without an
However, the list of blocked domains is believed to be around 2,500 domains, and is not made public, so ORG are unable to check for all possible mistakes.
Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open
Rights Group said:
It is not acceptable for a legal process to result in nearly 40% maladministration. These results show a great deal of carelessness.
We expect ISPs and rights holders to
examine our results and remove the errors we have found as swiftly as possible.
We want ISPs to immediately release lists of previously blocked domains, so we can check blocks are being removed by everyone.
Rights holders must make public exactly what is being blocked, so we can be ascertain how else these extremely wide legal powers are being applied.
ORG's conclusions are:
The administration process of adding and subtracting domains to be blocked is very poor
Keeping the lists secret makes it impossible to check errors
corrected is opaque. The ISP pages suggest you go to court.
In 2014, the High Court ordered Sky, TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Media and EE to block websites dealing in counterfeit luxury products.
The ISPs appealed the case on a number of grounds, including that the court had no power to order the injunctions. That
appeal has now failed.
In their appeal, the ISPs complained that they are innocent parties and that the Court had no jurisdiction to hand down a blocking order. However, even in the event that it did have jurisdiction, the ISPs said that certain
thresholds required for an injunction had not been met.
Continuing, the ISPs said that the judge had failed to apply the correct principles in deciding whether or not to hand down an order, and that the orders made were disproportionate. Finally,
the judge should not have ordered the ISPs to foot the bill for blocking the infringing sites.
This week the Court of Appeal handed down its long awaited decision and it's almost completely good news for the brand owners.
ISPs' appeal, the Court said that High Court did indeed have the power to issue the blocking injunctions and that all the legal thresholds for doing so had been met.
Interestingly, on the issue of who would pay for the site-blocking to be carried
out, the Court of Appeal had some sympathy for the ISPs. Justice Briggs wrote:
In my judgment the cost burden attributable to the implementation of a particular blocking order should fall upon the rightsholder making
the application for it.
In circumstances where valuable intangible rights of this kind need to be protected from abuse by others, I regard it as a natural incident of a business which consists of, or includes, the exploitation of
such rights, to incur cost in their protection, to the extent that it cannot be reimbursed by appropriate orders against wrongdoers.
But that doesn't mean that the ISPs are completely off the hook. Justice Briggs said that while the
ISPs wouldn't have to pay the costs associated with implementing a blocking order, they would still have to foot the bill for designing and installing the software with which to do so whenever ordered.
The High Court internet censors have granted an application by The Publishers Association to have several major pirate eBook sites blocked at the ISP level. The action, a first for book publishers, requires BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and EE
to block sites including Ebookee, LibGen and Freshwap within 10 days.
The High Court handed down its ruling in favor of the publishers. The outcome was never really in question -- UK ISPs have long since given up defending these cases.
days The Football Association and Premier League Limited achieved an extension of the UK blocklist with the addition of popular sports streaming sites Rojadirecta, LiveTV and Drakulastream.
This brings the total number of blocked sites to 128 and
more domains are expected to follow in the months to come.
The Motion Picture Association has obtained a High Court order requiring UK ISPs to block access to five sites that offer the popular Popcorn Time software. In addition, the Internet providers must block several more torrent and streaming sites.
than 100 websites have been blocked in recent years and now the court has issued the first injunction against domains that offer no direct links, but only software.
The order, obtained by Hollywood's Motion Picture Association (the overseas arm of
the MPAA), targets five popular Popcorn Time forks: popcorntime.io, flixtor.me, popcorn-time.se, and isoplex.isohunt.to.
In his order Judge Birss notes that the Popcorm Time software has little to no legal use. Instead, he mentions that it's
mostly used to download and stream pirated movies and TV-shows:
It is manifest that the Popcorn Time application is used in order to watch pirated content on the internet and indeed it is also manifest that that is its
purpose. No-one really uses Popcorn Time in order to watch lawfully available content. The point of Popcorn Time is to infringe copyright. The Popcorn Time application has no legitimate purpose.
Over the past year Popcorn Time has
become a major threat to Hollywood so it doesn't come as a complete surprise that the applications are now being targeted. Previously the movie studios took down code repositories on Github, for example.
Major UK ISPs must now block 110 piracy related websites after a new High Court order. The latest blocking round was issued on behalf of the major record labels and targets several MP3 download sites as well as a search engine for the cloud hosting
In a new wave the BPI, which represents the major record labels, has teamed up with music licensing outfit Phonographic Performance Limited to obtain an order targeting a series of MP3 download sites.
A few days ago several
providers including Sky, BT and Virgin implemented the new changes, making it harder for their subscribers to reach these sites. The other ISPs are expected to follow suit during the days to come.
Thus far the sealed Court order hasn't been
released to the public but the list of 17 sites was confirmed to TorrentFreak by one of the major ISPs, which preferred not to comment on the latest blocking round.
Because the ISPs have given up on defending their position in court, it is now a
mere formality for copyright holders to have a pirate site banned. However, the blocking efforts are not without cost. Leaked information previously revealed that even an unopposed application for a blocking order costs copyright holders around £14,000
per website . This brings the total costs of the requesting parties well over a million pounds.
The UK website blocking bonanza has started to move in a dubious direction. Several ISPs are now blocking access to websites that provide a list of Pirate Bay proxies. The sites in question do not host or link to any infringing material themselves and
are purely informational.
Following a series of High Court orders, six UK ISPs are required to block access to many of the world's largest torrent sites and streaming portals. The blocks are somewhat effective, at least in preventing subscribers from
accessing the domains directly. However, there are also plenty of workarounds.
For many sites that are blocked one or more proxy sites emerge. These proxies allow people to access the blocked sites and effectively bypass the restrictions put in
place by the court.
The copyright holders are not happy with these worrounds and have asked ISPs to add the proxies to their filters, which they have done on several occasions. However, restricting access to proxies did not provide a silver bullet
either as new ones continue to appear. This week the blocking efforts were stepped up a notch and are now targeting sites that merely provide an overview of various Pirate Bay proxies.
In other words, UK ISPs now restrict access to sites for
linking to Pirate Bay proxies. Among the blocked sites are piratebayproxy.co.uk , piratebayproxylist.com and ukbay.org . Both sites are currently inaccessible on Virgin Media and TalkTalk, and other providers are expected to follow suit.
with Dan, the operator of UKBay.org, who's baffled by the newly implemented blockade. He moved his site to a new domain to make the site accessible again, for the time being at least. Dan said:
The new blocks are
unbelievable and totally unreasonable. To block a site that simply links to another site just shows the level of censorship we are allowing ISP's to get away with.
UKBay is not even a PirateBay proxy. It simply provides links to
proxies. If they continue blocking sites, that link to sites, that link to sites.. there'l be nothing left.
The new additions were made as part of an existing High Court censorship order that allowed copyright holders to block The
Pirate Bay, a Virgin Media spokesperson informs us.
Under the conditions of the original court order, the rightsholders have the authority to change the specific URLs or IP addresses that must be blocked by all major
ISPs -- not just Virgin Media. Such changes happen on a regular basis. There is no @extension or amendment to the original court order.
As with earlier updates, the most recent changes are being made without a public announcement,
which means that we don't know precisely how many sites were added.
The High Court has ordered the biggest batch yet of piracy websites to be blocked.
The latest rulings cover 53 services in total and apply to the country's six leading ISPs. It brings the tally of blocked sites providing access to copyright-infringing
content to 93 since the first blocking began in 2012. The blocked sites include: BitSoup, IP Torrents, Isohunt, Sumotorrent, Torrentdb, Torrentfunk, Torrentz, Warez BB, Rapid Moviez.
Twenty-one of the sites were a result of a court order prompted
by the BPI, a music industry group.
The ISPs affected are Sky, BT, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin.
BT will only block access to websites engaged in online copyright infringement when ordered by a court to do so, said
the UK's biggest broadband provider, reflecting a stance shared by the other firms.
Ernesto Van Der Sar, editor of the Torrentfreak news site said:
It deters a few people who can't access their usual sites, but
most people will try to find ones that are not yet blocked or use VPNs [virtual private networks] or proxy sites to get the same content.
It's making it harder - some people will decide it's just too much trouble and give up - but
the overwhelming majority will still find ways to download material illegally.
A House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee report has condemned Google's failure to adequately respond to the issue of online piracy and its refusal to block infringing websites on the grounds they might also carry legal
material. Citing the recent successful prosecution of a streaming site admin, the committee also calls for punishment in such cases to be extended to 10 years imprisonment.
During the last couple of years media industry companies have heavily
criticized Google for linking to copyright-infringing material in its search results.
Google has responded by removing many millions of links but apparently that's just not enough. In the past couple of weeks the world's largest search engine has
become a punching bag for the music and movie industries and today they find themselves battered again, this time by a British House of Commons report.
The reports finds many targets for criticism but begins with a swipe at the UK's leading
Internet rights groups. Open Rights Group
The relationship between the strength of Britain's creative industries and robust copyright laws is acknowledged by the Open Rights Group which aims radically to liberalise the
use and sharing of copyrighted content.
While we share the Open Rights Group's attachment to freedom of expression via the internet, we firmly repudiate their laissez-faire attitudes towards copyright infringement.
The report goes on to mention the creation of a new City of London Police unit dedicated to cracking down on intellectual property crime and reveals that a first-of-its-kind conference is being planned to bring players from across the
world to London to discuss enforcement issues.
But inevitably the big guns were turned on the messenger. Google in the firing line again
The Committee begins by quoting Google itself, who at the time were removing around 9 million URLs
from its indexes every month at the request of copyright holders. This was countered with information provided by the BPI who said that despite Google's alleged algorithm changes, the instances of infringing sites turning up in the top 10 results had
fallen only marginally, from 63% in August 2012 to 61% a year later. Clearly the Committee are unimpressed. The report states:
We strongly condemn the failure of Google, notable among technology companies, to provide
an adequate response to creative industry requests to prevent its search engine directing consumers to copyright-infringing websites.
We are unimpressed by their evident reluctance to block infringing websites on the flimsy
grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content. The continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable. So far, their attempts to remedy this have been derisorily ineffective.
We do not believe it to be beyond the wit of the engineers employed by Google and others to demote and, ideally, remove copyright infringing material from search engine results. Google co-operates with law enforcement agencies to
block child pornographic content from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible answer as to why it cannot do the same for sites which blatantly, and illegally, offer pirated content.
We recommend that the
maximum penalty for serious online copyright theft be extended to ten years' imprisonment. Criminal offences in the online world should attract the same penalties as those provided for the physical world by the Copyright, etc. and Trade Marks (Offences
and Enforcement) Act 2002.
Finally the report criticizes the delay in implementing the controversial Digital Economy Act, stalled now for the best part of three years. In particular, the issuing of warning notices to infringers should
come sooner rather than later.
We recommend that a copyright infringement notification system envisaged by the Digital Economy Act be implemented with far greater speed than the Government currently plans. By targeting
information letters to the worst infringers, early implementation will, we believe, serve an important educative purpose which could percolate more widely.
Overall the Committee's report is a fairly disappointing and unimaginative piece of work. They offer a view of copyright that is too simplistic, one-sided and which effectively tries to reduce the debate to whether you like the creative industries or
not. They thus ignore the wider impact of new technology on citizens as creators and participants in culture, and on how markets for cultural goods can now function most effectively.
The UK High Court has been handing out website blocking injunctions regularly in recent months but despite the supposed transparency of the legal system, obtaining copies of the injunctions has proved impossible.
Now the Open Rights Group is
putting pressure on the Court in the hope of being able to publish the content of injunctions for open analysis.
Although controversial, the reasons why sites such as The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and Movie2K are being blocked are now clear.
Once ISPs have actual knowledge that their services are being used by their subscribers to infringe copyright, they are put on notice by the High Court to block the sites in question.
However, it has become somewhat tiresome to learn that
when injunctions are handed down by the High Court to ISPs, they appear to fall into some kind of informational black hole -- fitting perhaps for a document authorizing censorship.
To try and find out what these injunctions contain TorrentFreak
previously spoke with one of the leading ISPs who assured us that the documents aren't actually secret. However, when we requested a copy we were told that they couldn't send us one and we would have to go to the Court instead. No luck there -- and the
BPI weren't exactly forthcoming either.
Now the Open Rights Group is reporting that it too has been trying to get to the bottom of the website injunction blackout. ORG's Jim Killock says everyone could benefit from their publication. Accountability, fewer errors and less confusion about what is happening should be the result,
Killock reveals that ORG has also asked ISPs to cooperate but they too have been met with reluctance. Possibly [the ISPs] feel that copyright owners asking for the orders may find publication by an ISP provocative. This means we
are obliged to ask the courts for the documents, in order that we can publish and analyse their contents, he explains.
But ORG found that the courts didn't want to help either, turning down the group's requests to view the injunctions. They
have done this because, they say, 'judgement has not been entered' or 'service has not been acknowledged'. At present the rules governing access to court documents only permit access to these orders as of right once the litigation has finished, Killock explains.
The courts seem to be treating blocking injunctions as if they were like temporary injunctions made while proceedings are still going on. In fact the injunctions are the end of the section 97A process. Nothing more is intended to happen.
With this in mind, ORG have applied to have a procedural judge review the group's requests in order to gain access, at least in the first instance, to the injunctions issued to the ISPs against Fenopy, H33t and KickassTorrents.
Website blocking is continuing in the UK, with the High Court adding three major torrent sites to the country's official ban list.
Following complaints from the music industry led by the BPI, the Court ordered the UK's leading Internet service
providers to begin censoring subscriber access to Kickass Torrents, H33T and Fenopy.
Last year nine major record labels led by the BPI asked several of the UK's leading ISPs to censor The Pirate Bay. The process concluded at the end of April 2012
when the High Court ordered the site to be blocked.
October 2012 and the labels were back for more, this time asking six ISPs (BT, Sky, Virgin Media, O2, EE and TalkTalk) to begin blocking three more leading BitTorrent sites under Section 97A of
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.
O2 is set to block its customers from accessing file-sharing site The Pirate Bay from today.
The move means customers of Be Broadband, a subsidiary of O2, will also be blocked from the site.
The ISP is the latest to fall in line following a
High Court order in April. In a statement, O2 said: "The main UK internet providers were ordered by the high court to block access to specific IP addresses and URLs used by The Pirate Bay website.
We have no
option but to comply with this order and will be doing so overnight.
Be Broadband posted a message about the blocking measures on its company blog. It said:
Our parent company was one of the named
ISPs so we are obliged to comply.
We wouldn't chose to do this voluntarily but we need to comply with UK laws just like any UK business. We're aware of the concerns voiced by members about the broader issue.
BT has become the latest and last major UK Internet provider to block subscriber access to The Pirate Bay. The ISP has gone further than other providers since it also restricts access to the new IP-addresses added by the deviant BitTorrent site in
recent weeks. Nevertheless, even these additional efforts were quickly neutralized. Immediately after the block kicked in Pirate Bay added a set of new IP addresses to allow BT subscribers access again, for now at least.
BT subscribers who try to
access Pirate Bay get an Error -- site blocked message.
A Pirate Bay insider told TorrentFreak that they can continue adding new addresses for years to come. For them, it's more a statement than anything else as there are already dozens of
proxy sites that allow users to access The Pirate Bay just fine.
The most frequently visited proxy in the UK, operated by the local Pirate party, is already among the top 600 sites in the UK. With the new block by BT it is expected to attract even
more visitors. In addition, the Pirate Party is picking up a few new members in the process.
Interestingly, the MPAA and other copyright holders have yet to demand similar measures from US Internet providers. But maybe that's coming up next.
Sky has become the latest ISP to implement the court order forcing it to block filesharing website The Pirate Bay.
Everything Everywhere (EE) and Virgin Media have already taken similar action, while the order has also been extended to BT, O2 and
The latter two of these three major broadband providers are still working to introduce the ban, while BT has requested more time to make the required arrangements.
Explaining its approach to protecting copyright, the pay TV giant
said it has invested billions of pounds in creating high-quality content for its customers and acknowledged the importance of protecting this material against piracy. Such protection makes sure that consumers continue to benefit from TV
programmes, movies and music both now and in the future, Sky stated.
Last week the UK High Court ruled that several of the country's leading ISPs must block subscriber access to The Pirate Bay. The decision is designed to limit traffic to the world's leading BitTorrent site but in the short-term it had the opposite
effect. Over the last few days The Pirate Bay has had 12 million more visitors daily than it has ever had before.
A site insider told TorrentFreak that this provided a golden opportunity to educate users on how to circumvent blocks: We should
write a thank you letter to the BPI. It's not possible to buy advertising articles from leading UK publications such as the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph, but The Pirate Bay news was spread across all of them and dozens beside, for free.
The news was repeated around the UK, across Europe and around the world reaching millions of people. The results for the site were dramatic.
Another thing that's good with the traffic surge is that we now have time to teach even more people how
to circumvent Internet censorship, the insider added.
Last Friday the UK High Court ruled that several of country's leading ISPs must censor The Pirate Bay website having ruled in February that the site and its users breach copyright on a
grand scale. The blocks, to be implemented by Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media (BT are still considering their position), are designed to cut off all but the most determined file-sharers from the world's most popular torrent
In fact Virgin Media were the first off the blocks and have already started to block the site.
I don't suppose the security services will be very pleased that so many internet users are encouraged to use VPNs and proxies etc. They
will now be looking for needles in much larger haystacks with some of the barn lights going dark.
Update: Seeing Orange
10th May 2012. Thanks to James
As of 9th May, The Pirate Bay has been vetoed by Orange.
Here is a screenshot of what Pirate Bay visitors get to see via Orange.
Absolutely disgusted, a total violation of internet freedom and what it is meant for.
The UK High Court has ruled that several ISPs including Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media must censor The Pirate Bay file sharing website.
The blocking process was established in law by the media industry action against the
Newzbin2 Usenet indexing site last year. A few weeks later a conglomerate of music labels filed a lawsuit against several Internet providers, demanding that they block subscriber access to The Pirate Bay.
Nine labels including EMI, Polydor, Sony,
Virgin and Warner said that The Pirate Bay infringes their copyrights and that several ISPs including TalkTalk and Virgin Media should implement a blockade under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.
In February the High Court
agreed that The Pirate Bay and its users do indeed breach copyright on a major scale, and this decision has now been followed by a court order.
ISPs Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media must censor The Pirate Bay website in
the weeks to come. A sixth ISP, BT, has asked for more time to consider its position.
The Open Rights Group says the court-ordered block represents the thin end of the wedge.
Blocking the Pirate Bay is pointless and dangerous. It will
fuel calls for further, wider and even more drastic calls for Internet censorship of many kinds, from pornography to extremism, ORG Executive Director Jim Killock said: Internet censorship is growing in scope and becoming easier. Yet it never has
the effect desired. It simply turns criminals into heroes.
The Swansea student given 56 days in prison for posting racially offensive comments on Twitter should not have been jailed, according to Europe's most senior human rights official.
In an interview the day before he left office, Thomas Hammarberg,
the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said the sentence imposed by British courts on Liam Stacey was excessive.
After six years in his post at Strasbourg, the Swedish official used his departing comments to plead for greater
freedom of expression and to question blanket imposition of traditional media restraints on the internet. Hammarberg told the Guardian:
It was too much. He shouldn't have gone to prison. To put him in prison was wrong.
Politicians are at a bit of loss to know how to ... protect internet freedom while also having regulations against [such problems as] hate speech and child pornography.
There are limits to freedom of
expression but regulators don't know how to handle this. It would be useful to have a more enlightened discussion at a European level, otherwise we are going to have different practices in different countries.
In traditional media
there are editors who are responsible for print content. It's not so easy to have to the same legal procedures when it comes to action [against lone online voices].
People are at a loss to know how to apply rules for the
traditional media to the new media. It's tricky and that's why there needs to be a more thorough discussion about this.
Sky Broadband has begun blocking Newzbin2 after receiving a court order telling it to do so.
The ISP is the second major internet provider to block access to the Usenet indexing website, after BT started doing so around the end of October.
However, major rivals TalkTalk and Virgin Media said that they have received no such court order themselves, and are not blocking the site.
We have received a court order requiring us to block access to this illegal website, which we did on 13
December, Sky said in a statement: Moving forward, as and when clear and legally robust evidence of copyright theft is presented, we will take appropriate action in respect to site blocking, which will include complying with court orders.
The European branch of the Motion Picture Association (MPA) representing Walt Disney, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers won a court order in July that forced BT to block access to Newzbin2. In early November, shortly
after BT began blocking Newzbin, the MPA sent letters to all the major ISPs, saying the organisation intended to seek similar court orders and asking whether the ISPs intended to fight against this move.
The MPA has also gone to BT to seek a block
of the Pirate Bay file-sharing website, but BT has said it will not institute further blocks without a court order for each case.
BT has started blocking Newzbin 2 as ordered by a UK court.
Newzbin 2 is a members-only site which indexes material shared in Usenet discussion forums. The site is being blocked via legal actions of the Motion Picture Association, who managed to
get the UK court to block the site.
We've heard that the British Telecom censorship of the free web has begun, the group behind Newzbin 2 told the BBC. It also said that 93.5% of its active UK users have downloaded workaround software
developed by them to bypass the block. The group would not divulge how it worked.
Newzbin2 shall go on, its users shall continue to access the site and its facilities, the Newzbin team told the BBC. Nothing has changed and they [the MPA]
have no change after paying millions of dollars in legal fees.
The Motion Picture Association
(MPA) has asked two UK internet service providers (ISPs) to consent to a court order that would force them to block their customers' access to a copyright-infringing website.
A ZDNet report said the MPA told it that it had sent letters to Virgin
Media and TalkTalk referring to the recent order by Mr Justice Arnold and asked the major UK ISPs whether they would consent to a court order requiring them to impede subscriber access to the Newzbin2 website .
TalkTalk said in a
statement: We are considering our position since there are some objectionable elements to the proposed injunction. We will only block access to a website if ordered to do so by a court. .
Virgin Media also confirmed that it had
received MPA's letter and that it would only act on receipt of a court order. A Virgin Media spokesperson said in a statement: As a responsible ISP, we will comply with any court order addressed to us but strongly believe such deterrents need to be
accompanied by compelling legal alternatives, such as our agreement with Spotify, which give consumers access to content at the right price.
The operators of Usenet indexing site Newzbin2 have introduced measures to circumvent court-ordered web-blocking measures designed to render the site inoperable in the UK.
Site staff aren't revealing how the stand-alone software client works but
some basic network packet analysis shows that it defeats ISP BT's Cleanfeed censorship system by using a handful of techniques including encryption.
Following a complaint from the Motion Picture Association, earlier this year a judge at London's
High Court ordered leading UK ISP BT to block subscriber access to Usenet indexing site Newzbin2.
TorrentFreak ran some basic tests on the Newzbin2 client today which revealed that it does indeed defeat known features of Cleanfeed in a number of
ways. Initially the client tries to resolve the site's domain name to an IP in the usual manner via DNS, but from there, and without going into too many details, an encrypted session is initiated between the client and the Newzbin2 site in a way that
Cleanfeed won't like, rendering blocking impractical and snooping more or less impossible.
Perhaps from the viewpoint of the UK authorities website blocking could prove to be a bit of a nightmare as it drives more and more people to take evasive
action, that will surely make general eavesdropping a whole lot more difficult.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has said that the government will not bring forward regulations on site-blocking established as reserve powers in the Digital Economy Act, following a technical Ofcom report. The ministry added: We
are keen to explore the issues raised by Ofcom's report and will be doing more work on what measures can be pursued to tackle online copyright infringement.
Ofcom's report effectively kicked web-blocking into the long grass. Ofcom examined
various techniques and concluded that blocking discrete URLs or web addresses is not practical or desirable as a primary approach. Ofcom instead recommends something critics might see as more draconian, however:
The report says that if
site-blocking is adopted, it should be at the domain level. But such a technique will become harder, when digital signing is more common. So it recommends examining further measures such as transparent proxy-blocking (cleanfeed) or hybrid routing
In the medium to longer term we consider that deep packet inspection techniques are likely to provide a more robust approach to blocking than DNS. Although costly to implement today, we would expect
that costs will fall as the larger ISPs invest in DPI devices for other purposes. However, for it to be part of a legislative approach the cost burden for smaller ISPs would need careful evaluation as would legal concerns related to compatibility with
privacy, data protection and interception rules.
The High Court's decision requiring British Telecom to block access to the file-indexing website, Newzbin.com sets a worrying international precedent against the right to freedom of expression.
The decision sets too low the threshold for ordering blocking, fails to properly balance the right to property with the right to freedom of expression, and shows no consideration for the chilling effect such a decision would have.
Ordering the blocking of an entire domain name, as opposed to specific webpages, is also likely to breach the requirement for necessity in international law.
Although ARTICLE 19 supports development of clear standards
related to online copyright infringement, the judgment of the English High Court on 28 July 2011 sets a worrying precedent which could have a dramatic chilling effect on legitimate online content. It is also highly likely to breach international
standards of freedom of expression.
ARTICLE 19 notes with concern that the judge granted the website blocking injunction not only in relation to the studios' own films but also those of third parties who were
not involved in the case, on the basis that there was no reason to believe that they would not support it. The judge accepted that the order would also prevent BT subscribers from making use of Newzbin.com for legitimate purposes, but considered that
there was little evidence that the site was being used in this way.
ARTICLE 19 believes that the high court order is very likely to breach international standards for the protection of freedom of expression, in
particular the principle that any restriction on freedom of expression for a legitimate aim must be proportionate.
The ruling gives short shrift to this well-established principle as follows:
In its judgment, the high court failed to carry out a proper balancing exercise between freedom of expression and the right to property. In particular, the judge provided very little reasoning for his conclusion that the
intellectual property rights of the studios clearly outweighed the free speech rights of BT and its many UK users;
The threshold for granting such a website blocking order was set very low,
despite its obviously far-reaching consequences. In particular, the studios simply had to show that BT knew that one or more persons were using its service to infringe copyright, and that was sufficient to justify an order blocking the entire site;
Moreover, little or no consideration was given to the chilling effect that the order is highly likely to have on freedom of expression and the free flow of information on the Internet, especially legitimate online
content. This is borne out by the overly broad terms of the order sought, which is directed to the website's domains and sub domains rather than specific URLs deemed illegitimate. In ARTICLE 19's view, any order seeking to block access to domain names as
a whole rather than specific URLs is very likely to breach the requirement of necessity under international law. In this respect, ARTICLE 19 also points out to a July 2011 report by the OSCE Special Representative for Freedom of the Media said that Arguably, the practice of banning access to entire websites, and the future publication of articles thereof (whose content is unknown at the time of access blocking) goes beyond
any notion of necessary restraint in a democratic society and, instead, amounts to censorship .
ARTICLE 19 urges the establishment of clear legislative standards in this area in order to strike a fairer balance between the interests of rights holders and Internet users and better protect freedom of expression on the
A High Court judge has ruled that BT must block access to a website which provides links to pirated movies.
Newzbin 2 is a members-only site which aggregates a large amount of copied material found on Usenet discussion forums.
case is the first time that a UK ISP has been ordered to block access to such a site.
It paves the way for other sites to be blocked.
In his ruling, 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 Newbin2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the Studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes.
The Motion Picture Association, which represents the likes of Warner, Disney and Fox, launched the legal action to close down Newzbin 2. MPA signalled its intention to pursue other ISPs.
The judge ruled that BT must use its blocking
technology CleanFeed - which is currently used to prevent access to websites featuring child sexual abuse - to block Newzbin.
The Internet Service Providers' Association has been a fierce critic of web blocking. It said that using blocking
technology, designed to protect the public from images of child abuse, was inappropriate.
Currently CleanFeed is dealing with a small, rural road in Scotland, ISPA council member James Blessing told BBC Radio 4's PM programme. Trying to
put Newzbin and other sites into the same blocking technology would be a bit like shutting down the M1. It is not designed to do that.
BT's head of retail Simon Milner has admitted that the company is not deliriously happy , but BT won't be appealing the decision.
He told the Register that: We believe in an open internet -- we won't do any other blocking . We
will never stop our customers getting to any service they want to get to. Unless a court orders us to.
Although the case went against BT, Milner points out that a test case has finally made the law clear. And since web-blocking requires a
court order, he says BT is satisfied with that. Each web-blocking request will have to go before a court -- where a judge must examine it on its merits.
There's no suggestion in this judgement that BT has done anything wrong as an innocent
intermediary. We said it's questionable whether an intermediary can have these obligations put on it. Now we know.
Comment: Blocking Newzbin2 paves the way for internet censorship
T he court decision to allow BT to block the pirate site means Hollywood is dictating our internet policy
There is no good reason to believe that
this will end at copyright enforcement, for example those fond of libel action will no doubt be eyeing this result with interest. One of the most depressing aspects of the case is that is the blocking is to be enacted using the system set up to address
the issue of child abuse images on the net. This system was simply not made for a hugely wider remit, and frankly the use of Cleanfeed seems shockingly cynical. Assurances given that it would only ever be used for dealing with this most appalling of
crimes now seem hollow