Increasing European Moves To Block Access To Websites Accused Of Helping People Infringe Copyrights

from the slippery-slope dept

In their obsessive war on piracy, the copyright industries have tried various approaches. For a while, the "three strikes and out" was popular, until it became clear that it was completely ineffectual. At the moment, the preferred method is to try to force ISPs to block access to sites holding material that infringes on copyright. The UK led the way, and has now made the whole process pretty routine, as a recent post on the TechnoLlama blog explains:

The blocking order follow a now familiar pattern established in 20th Century Fox v BT: lawyers for the film and/or music industry go to court against UK ISPs to try and obtain an injunction that will block access on those to a specific website. The subject websites are not included as co-defendants, and their guilt tends to be assumed, or dealt with separately. The websites are then blocked at the ISP level, meaning that any person who enters "www.thepiratebay.sx" into their browser will receive a notice stating that the site is not available.
The fact that it is easy to circumvent these blocks doesn't seem to worry the industry much: either the only concern is to make it hard for less tech-savvy users to access a site, or maybe a symbolic victory is all that is required. In any case, the approach is beginning to spread in Europe. For example, Switzerland is currently reviewing the operation of copyright in a digital world, and blocking content is likely to be one of the recommendations from the AGUR12 working group -- following the usual heavy-handed hints by the USTR, as TorrentFreak explains:
According to a report obtained by NZZ am Sontagg, AGUR12 have concluded that Swiss Internet service providers should be forced to delete content if hosted on Swiss-based sites. Most controversially their final report, which is now being sent to the Justice Minister, states that ISPs should display warnings when users attempt to access unauthorized content sources while "obviously illegal sites" should be rendered entirely inaccessible.
As usual, that begs the question which sites are "obviously illegal." Meanwhile, in Belgium, the authorities continue their forlorn attempt to shut down The Pirate Bay and its proxies:
The Supreme Court of Belgium has ordered local Internet providers to proactively search for Pirate Bay proxies, and block subscribers' access to these sites. The order is one of the most far-reaching decisions when it comes to website blocking based on copyright infringement grounds. A spokesperson for Belgacom, one of the largest ISP, describes the verdict as disproportionate and unacceptable.
But perhaps the most important news on the Web blocking front concerns Europe's highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Austrian Supreme Court had sought guidance on whether injunctions could be brought against ISPs whose users were accessing sites that infringed on copyright. As is usually the case, before the Court of Justice hands down its opinion, a kind of pre-opinion is given by the Advocate General (pdf), in this case Pedro Cruz Villalón. Here's his view on the situation:
In his Opinion today, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalón takes the view that the internet provider of the user of a website which infringes copyright is also to be regarded as an intermediary whose services are used by a third party -- that is the operator of the website -- to infringe copyright and therefore also as a person against whom an injunction can be granted. That is apparent from the wording, context, spirit and purpose of the provision of EU law.
This bad news that ISPs can be regarded as intermediaries is tempered slightly by the following:
The Advocate General is also of the view that it is incompatible with the weighing of the fundamental rights of the parties to prohibit an internet service provider generally and without ordering specific measures from allowing its customers to access a particular website that infringes copyright.
The Advocate General adds one other qualification:
It is for the national courts, in the particular case, taking into account all relevant circumstances, to weigh the fundamental rights of the parties against each other and thus strike a fair balance between those fundamental rights.
This is not the final ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union itself, which could take a completely different view of things, but that is unlikely. So we can probably expect to see even more Web sites blocked in Europe at the behest of film and music companies. That's a huge pity. It imposes costs on ISPs that have nothing to do with the infringement, and it distracts copyright companies from the real solution: providing better access to legal offerings at fair prices.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    silverscarcat (profile), Nov 27th, 2013 @ 12:44pm

    The wails of a dying breed.

    The Copyfraud Alliance, the more you try to tighten your grip on people, the more people will slip through your fingers and turn on you.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2013 @ 1:27pm

    Google just hates it when Silicon Valley's War On Musicians faces counter action.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2013 @ 1:36pm

    strange how this same 'advocate general' said a while ago that web site blocking is against human rights! seems to me that the USTR has been doing rather more than suggesting what should happen. the same in Switzerland, too. that is supposed to be a neutral country, not one that is influenced by any other nation, least of all the USA! and remember, it isn't to the advantage of anyone else. as usual, only the USA!
    if Hollywood and the USA entertainment industries are so worried about people infringing their copyright, either make things sensibly priced or keep it all in the USA. no one world wide HAS to have anything from them and i am sure they would live ok without it!!
    strange how governments are so keen on allowing this to happen, when it is just a means to legally bring in the spying that has been going on illegally!

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Nov 27th, 2013 @ 1:39pm

    And UK ministers are to order ISPs to block 'extremist' or 'terrorist' websites.

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/27/ministers-order-isps-block-terrorist-website s

    What I would like to know is who decides what are terrorist or extremist websites.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Nov 27th, 2013 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      More worrying, is that as was shown by the detention of Greenwald's partner under 'anti-terrorism' laws, and the UK government's continued insistence that intelligence leaks/whistleblowing are acts of terrorism, how long (assuming it's not already happening) until such blocks are used to target any blog, site, or posts that are exposing embarrassing/illegal activities by the government?

       

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    Vidiot (profile), Nov 27th, 2013 @ 1:52pm

    But Google!

    Freetards blah blah rampant theft and stealing blah blah corporate blah blah Google!

    [out_of_the_blue is away for the Thanksgiving holiday; vacation relief provided by RantBot(TM)]

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2013 @ 2:31pm

    I forget, but are these DNS blocks? or are they actually blackholing the IP addresses?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2013 @ 2:58pm

    Censorship starts to become ingrained in the culture.
    Meanwhile pirates are happy using others means that totally bypass those blocks.

     

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    Rekrul, Nov 27th, 2013 @ 9:14pm

    Website blocking is the 21st century's version of book burning.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Nov 28th, 2013 @ 12:07am

      Re:

      Even more idiotic actually, once a book is burned, that copy is gone forever, but block a site? 5 minutes later there's another way to it, or a mirror of it elsewhere.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2013 @ 12:30pm

    At what point does it stop being a block of websites, before it turns to laws and "policies" dictating what CAN be allowed on the internet, oh i know, the moment it stops being the internet

     

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