Newzbin2 has today become the first website to be blocked by an ISP on the grounds of distributing illegally copied material. I’d personally never heard of the site, so I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep after being told I can’t make use of it anymore, however there are, I’m sure, plenty of members on the website, which scours the Usenet forums for content and distributes anything it finds, who might take it a little harder.
This case is not about the size of the website being blocked though, nor is it a move to stamp out piracy once and for all. Not yet, at least, instead it’s more a mere landmark. A case that will be looked at as the first of many, I assume, and one that paves the way for a succession of other websites meeting a similar end.
Essentially, a High Court judge has ruled that ISP BT must restrict access to the website entirely for its users. In his ruling, Justice Arnold said “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 Newzbin2 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.”
The ruling has unsurprisingly been welcomed by most parties, except the pirates of course, but then who cares about them? Sink them.
BT, putting forward their own statement, described the outcome as “helpful”, and going on to elaborate, saying “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,”
However, Newzbin2 has already declared its inevitable opposition to the ruling, claiming that they’re more than willing to break BT’s filters. Literally. BT responded during a sharp statement: “We would be appalled if any group were to try to sabotage this technology as it helps to protect the innocent from highly offensive and illegal content,”
Furthermore, there has been a shadow of doubt cast over the means of the website blocking, with the Open Rights Group, an organisation entrusted with protecting digital rights, declaring that “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”.
So there’s no doubt that this move will set a precedent on which to proceed, however, the direction in which BT, the Open Rights Group and other ISP’s take it is still up for scrutiny, with many claiming that the current filters used to protect people from visiting child pornography on the Internet, are not nearly robust enough to handle large scale blocks on certain websites.
There’s also much debate being stirred on what will qualify are website to warrant being blocked off by certain ISPs? The open Internet is not so much a debate, but a storm which has been raging across the seven seas for years now, and many are worried as to what else might be restricted online, and how much liberty will be left for the online community.
What we have here, though, is a signal of intent on the part of ISP’s and rights holders to prevent illegal distribution of its creative material online, an industry which has become the proverbial treasure chest for pirates online over the past number of years. There’s still talk, even, of cutting individuals from the Internet if they persistently download copyrighted material.
So, we’d like to hear where you stand on the matter, as always. Should the Internet be freely available, or is it acceptable to block certain sites from the public if they are deemed illegal? Let us know in the comments section below.