In a landmark decision, telecoms giant BT has been forced to censor access to file-sharing website Newzbin after the Motion Picture Association (MPA) called for the blocking with Newzbin providing NZB files used to help users download unauthorised copies of films such as The King’s Speech from Usenet.
BT have said they will not appeal the decision and are claiming that this proves that entertainment companies can and should go through the full legal process to get a site blocked rather than threatening ISPs directly, stating in a statement:
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
Others, conversely, have noted that the decision will likely allow groups like the MPA to put more pressure on ISPs to block sites, knowing that any court case would be lengthy and that this decision could be used as precedent.
It is interesting to note that this decision was made under the Copyright, Designs, and Patent Act 1988, and not the recent Digital Economy Act (DEACT) – proving to campaigners against the new act that it was unnecessary as well as offering overly severe punishments such as restricting internet access for infringers – something the UN have recently found to be a Human Right.
Justice Arnold ruled that BT must use its blocking technology CleanFeed to block Newzbin, a technology that is currently used to prevent access to websites featuring child sexual abuse. The is distressing for two reason: the slippery slope towards net-censorship; and the technological attack CleanFeed is now likely to receive as incensed pirates and open rights activists will attempt to break the filter. Child sexual abuse is something that everyone agrees should be blocked with CleanFeed widely praised, but using the filter for economic reasons is far more troubling. Could this be the first stop towards companies censoring other websites that they claim may be defaming them, copying them, or any of the other reasons companies that are struggling to evolve blame on the boundary-free connected world.