UK Court Grants First Live Blocking Order To Stop New Infringing Streams As Soon As They Start

from the whose-side-are-the-ISPs-on-these-days? dept

As we noted last week, one of the main copyright battlegrounds in the UK concerns the use of Kodi boxes — low-cost devices running the open source Kodi multimedia player, usually augmented with plug-ins that provide access to unauthorized content. One of the popular uses of such Kodi boxes is to watch live streams of sporting events. TorrentFreak reports on an important new court order obtained by the UK’s Football Association Premier League (FAPL) to prevent people from viewing live streams of soccer games free of charge. The problem for the FAPL is that the addresses of the servers streaming matches are often only known once the games begin. To meet that challenge, the court has granted a new kind of injunction: one that allows live blocking. Here’s how it will work:

servers can only be selected [for blocking] by FAPL if it “reasonably believes” they have the “sole or predominant purpose of enabling or facilitating access to infringing streams of Premier League match footage.” Secondly, the FAPL must not know or have reason to believe “that the server is being used for any other substantial purpose.”

In other words, the servers must be dedicated to live streaming rather than doing it incidentally alongside other, possibly more legitimate, activities.

This caution is needed because this injunction will be carried out live, as soon as matches begin to hit the Internet. FAPL and its anti-piracy contractor will monitor the Internet, grab IP addresses, and ask the ISPs to block them in real-time. No court will be involved in that process, it will be carried out at the discretion of the FAPL and the ISPs.

Giving the FAPL the power to ask for any IP address to be blocked as it sees fit, and without a court order, is bad enough, but the TorrentFreak post points out some other extremely troubling features of this latest decision. It explains how the FAPL hired an “anti-piracy” company to monitor unauthorized streams. It seems that leading UK ISPs helped by providing data about download patterns:

“A very substantial volume of traffic from BT, Sky and Virgin, who are the three largest UK ISPs, has been recorded from these [infringing servers] during Premier League match times,” the injunction reads.

“The extent of these spikes in traffic, the closeness of their correlation with each scheduled match, and the absolute volume in terms of raw bandwidth consumed, are only consistent with large numbers of consumers obtaining Premier League content from these servers.”

This information is also “only consistent” with those three ISPs actively helping the investigation of streaming servers. As TorrentFreak points out:

Overall, this injunction provides a clear indication of what can happen when ISPs stop being “mere conduits” of information and start becoming distributors of entertainment content. In the case of Sky and BT, who pay billions for content, it would be perhaps naive to think that they would’ve behaved in any other way.

Indeed, this case has all the hallmarks of companies agreeing to take action together and then going through the formalities of an injunction application to get the necessary rubber stamp and avoid criticism.

If confirmed, that’s a terrible development. It would mean that the ISPs with investments in material that customers view over their connections no longer see themselves as neutral “mere conduits,” but now are on the side of the copyright industry.

The legal blog IPKat points out another important aspect of this latest case. It seems to be the first time that the awful GS Media ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union — that a link posted “for profit” can be considered direct infringement — has been applied in the UK. The judge in this live streaming case wrote:

Generally speaking, the operators of the Target Servers are not merely linking to freely available sources of Premier League footage. Even if in some cases they do, the evidence indicates that they do so for profit, frequently in the form of advertising revenue, and thus are presumed to have the requisite knowledge for the communication to be to a new public.

Expect to see more of these live blocking orders in the UK as the copyright industry there continues to wage its war on the popular Kodi boxes. The question is, will courts in other EU countries start to use them too?

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Companies: fapl, premier league

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Comments on “UK Court Grants First Live Blocking Order To Stop New Infringing Streams As Soon As They Start”

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DB (profile) says:

Re: hmm Literal reading of the law, as opposed to the wishes of corporations

‘Fixed in a tangible medium’ is one of the requirements for something to be copyrighted.

That’s a vital element. Without being able to reference the copyrighted material in an unchanging form, the courts have no way to judge infringement.

I can see that phrase is unfortunate to those that want to have a government-enforced monopoly on showing unscripted events in real-time.

Anonymous Coward says:

The British media constantly reporting about “Kodi boxes” is so annoying. They don’t have any clue you can install Kodi on lots of things and it has nothing to do with cheap Android boxes. You can in fact view any illegal sports stream with a browser no Kodi needed. Now TechDirt is calling them Kodi boxes SMH. Nobody even mentions the actual plugins that are used (SportsDevil, Castaway, etc.).

ECA (profile) says:

sO, WHO is capturing the Game for SHOW??
WHO has access to the SERVER that FAPL is saving and broadcasting DATA?
WHO has the ability to TRACK who is logged in on the SERVER?

Everything here is PRIVATE…no LAW needed// UNLESS someone wants a Precedent..for Corp controlled media, and data services.

if’ THEY wish to TRACK who is doing it, as someone Out in the field is watching it Hijacked…They could send a Blip, down EACH connected system in the Video..OR embed a Tag in EACH outgoing channel, that is different from the others..

Private company, Private SERVER, they can Disco ANYONE THEY WANT..NO law needed..

Anonymous Coward says:

They’re not actually ‘shutting down’ the servers though – they’re just blocking access to specific IPs via those ISPs. Now logic would dictate that people will then start using VPNs to access to the streams via an out of country server but biggest concern is the use of volume metrics at specific times mentioned earlier in the article to detect illegal streaming and I suspect next they’ll block the VPN ips under this logic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think their plan is actually to block the server IP not the viewer. So basically the streaming site just gets blackholed.

The fun part of this will be guys who think like me and intentionally setup a bunch of streams with shared hosting services. That way when they block the IPs they will take down a large number of sites.

Andy J (profile) says:

Fixing of work and sport as a protectable 'work'

In answer to a couple of earlier comments, the copyright works at issue here were various logos and overlays which FAPL inserted into the video stream. These obviously existed before the transmission so they meet the fixation requirement. Scondly they were the works which the FAPL claimed were infringed by the streams from the pirate server not the footbal games themselves.

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