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BT Given Two Weeks To Block Newzbin2

BT has been given 14 days to block access to the file-sharing Website Newzbin2, and must pay the costs

On by Tom Jowitt 0

BT has been given fourteen days to block access to the filesharing Website Newzbin2, and must even shoulder part of the financial burden of blocking access to the site.

The High Court ruling means that BT has until Wednesday 7 November to ensure that no-one within the United Kindgom can access the site. Newzbin2 is for members only and offers links to film, television, music, and software downloads.

Lengthy Saga

The saga of preventing access to the filesharing Website has been a prolonged one. The Motion Picture Association (MPA), which represents Hollywood studios such as Warner Brothers, Fox, Disney and Paramount Pictures outside the United States, initially filed an injunction against BT, requiring it to block access to Newzbin2 back in December 2010.

The injunction has failed to stop 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 then switched tactics and in June began a court case to get BT to block all access to the site, instead of trying to force Newzbin2 offline.

One month later Hollywood won, after the High Court ordered BT to block access to Newzbin2 by using its Cleanfeed system, in what has become a landmark case for the Internet industry. This is because it is the first time any Website has been blocked by an ISP in the UK under copyright law.

Implementation Stage

“The judge ordered a block on 28 July,” explained a spokesperson for the MPA, speaking to eWEEK Europe UK. “But there was a further hearing on 14 October to give BT and the MPA  a chance to submit further evidence. Today’s ruling is essentially the implementation stage of the court order in July.”

The MPA said in a statement: “The ruling places responsibility directly on BT not only to block the site but also to finance the implementation. Within 14 days, BT will block the Newzbin2 site, preventing the illegal operators from using BT’s service to flout the law, making it more difficult for Newzbin to profit to the tune of over £1 million per year from other people’s work. It will also protect BT’s customers from obtaining poor quality products which could also threaten the safety of their PC.”

The MPA said that the court order had been structured flexibly to minimise the opportunities for Newzbin2 to circumvent the block by developing new variations of the site.

Newzbin2 has already said it is preparing software to work around BT’s high-court imposed blockade. In September the site’s owners released the first version of client software designed to circumvent the block and restore the service.

BT Response

Predictably, the ruling has been welcomed by the creative industries: “This is a very significant day for the UK’s creative industries,” said Lord Puttnam CBE, president of the Film Distributors’ Association. “The law is clear. Industrial online piracy is illegal and can be stopped.”

BT, however, was less enthusiastic about the ruling, considering it was one of the ISPs (alongside TalkTalk) that spearheaded the High Court fight to overturn the UK Digital Economy Act’s copyright measures.

It issued the following terse statement on the matter: “Today the court determined the details of the blocking order specific to BT and the Newzbin Website resulting from the Court’s judgment in July,” said BT. “It is helpful to have the order now and the clarity that it brings.”

Financial Cost

BT’s reluctance is understandable, considering that it also has to pay the lion’s share of the cost of implementing the Web block on Newzbin2. BT has reportedly argued that the creative industries should pay.

The UK carrier has estimated the initial cost of implementing the block to be about £5,000 and £100 for each subsequent notification. Because BT challenged the earlier ruling, it has to pay the litigation costs of the case.

The ruling has also previously drawn the ire of digital rights activists, who regard the ruling as a huge blow.

“Website blocking is pointless and dangerous,” said Peter Bradwell, copyright campaigner at the Open Rights Group, in response to the court’s decision back in July. “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.”

Tom Jowitt
Author: Tom Jowitt
Freelance TechWeek Reporter
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