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?

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  1. icon
    surfer (profile), 15 Mar 2017 @ 1:52pm

    hmm

    I thought to copyright an object, it had to be "fixed" how can you claim against an ongoing production prior to it being "fixed"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Whoever, 15 Mar 2017 @ 2:29pm

    Re: hmm

    You assume that courts have a grasp of logic. This assumption is made very often, but is completely false.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2017 @ 2:37pm

    Re: hmm

    What I want to know is how can 22 men chasing a round object around a field be copyrighted in the first place, and why are they often paid millions of pounds to do so?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    DB (profile), 15 Mar 2017 @ 2:58pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 15 Mar 2017 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Re: hmm

    And why is there no patent on:

    • Select your favorite shape of ball
    • Take/keep the ball from your opponent
    • Take the ball to a pre-appointed location
    • Pretend you've accomplished something important

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 15 Mar 2017 @ 3:24pm

    You can bet on the MPAA & RIAA to point that if the ISP in the UK can assist, then in other U.S. the ISP's should be able to do the same.

    Bank on Hollywood trying to get this feature in every country it can pressure into it

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2017 @ 3:32pm

    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.).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    tracyanne, 15 Mar 2017 @ 3:38pm

    TLA time

    VPN

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    ECA (profile), 15 Mar 2017 @ 4:22pm

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

    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..

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 15 Mar 2017 @ 9:02pm

    Even if in some cases they do, the evidence indicates that they do so for profit, frequently in the form of advertising revenue...

    Made 2.50 off advertising for posting a link. Had site shut down and sued for 5m. Because commercial.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 1:14am

    The three named ISPs Sky, Virgin & B.T. all also provide TV package deals which include Premier League content. Perhaps their involvement has some ulterior motive. Perhaps they believe that by shutting down Kodi they will regain those customers who left them for the significantly cheaper option.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 2:34am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 4:01am

    Re:

    The term has come to have a catch-all meaning for all Kodi enabled devices. It's just for simplicity. Also they are not likely to mention the actual plugins used less they get accused of encouraging their use.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Androgenous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 4:40am

    Re: Re: hmm

    Football has been described as (in best Monty Python Yorkshire accent) 40 000 folk sittin' 'round in weather they wouldn't work in, watchin' 22 grown blokes kick a leather windbag 'round a wet paddock.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 5:19am

    Re: Re: Re: hmm

    Not patentable in the UK

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Cephei, 16 Mar 2017 @ 5:29am

    Wouldn't it be funny if...

    when a game began someone accidentally reported the IP addresses of the official servers and got them blocked as well?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Ninja (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 6:02am

    It's still useless. It's incredibly easy to use a VPN to work around those blockades and disguise your traffic. Many already use just for the privacy problems (hello US ISPs!).

    And it should be noted: WHERE ARE THE GODDAMN OFFICIAL, LEGAL, AFFORDABLE STREAMS?!?!??!?!?!?!?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 6:10am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Andy J (profile), 17 Mar 2017 @ 1:30pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 4:40pm

    Re: hmm

    Copyright is "fixed." You answered your own question.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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