Film studios win Newzbin2 blocking case against BT

Film studios win Newzbin2 blocking case against BT

Summary: Six US film studios have won a case against BT, which must block file-sharing Usenet site Newzbin2 after a landmark decision at the High Court


BT has been ordered to block Usenet file-sharing site Newzbin2 by a High Court judge, after losing a case against six US film studios.

High Court

Six US film studios have won a case against BT, which must block file-sharing Usenet site Newzbin2 after a landmark High Court decision. Photo credit: Cindy Andrie/Flickr

The case represents the first time a UK ISP has been ordered to block a website to protect rights holders' revenues. The six US film studios are 20th Century Fox, Universal, Warner Bros, Paramount, Disney and Columbia Pictures.

The studios, who are members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), won the case against BT on Wednesday. Mr Justice Arnold said in his judgement that BT not only had knowledge of Newzbin2 infringing copyright, but also which BT subscribers had infringed copyright.

"In my judgment it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright: it knows that the users and operators of Newbin2 [sic] infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the Studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes, it knows that the users of Newzbin2 include BT subscribers, and it knows that those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin2," said Justice Arnold in his judgement.

"Furthermore, I would add that BT also has some actual knowledge regarding individual BT subscribers who use Newzbin2," he said.

The terms of the enforcement order will be decided in court in October, a BT spokesman told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

Terms include who should bear the costs of enforcement, and who should be liable in the case of rights holders being mistaken in URLs that ISPs should block, said the spokesman.

'Helpful judgement'

"This is a helpful judgement, which provides clarity on this complex issue," said BT. "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."

It clearly shows that rights holders need to prove their claims and convince a judge to make a court order.

– BT

BT's position is that rights holders should pay for enforcement, and ISPs should be indemnified against false accusations of copyright infringement and takedown, said the spokesman.

The MPAA welcomed the judgement on Wednesday, and called Newzbin2 a 'pirate website'.

"This court action was never an attack on ISPs but we do need their co-operation to deal with the Newzbin site which continually tries to evade the law and judicial sanction," said Chris Marcich, the EMEA president of MPAA. "Newzbin is a notorious pirate website which makes hundreds of thousands of copyrighted products available without permission and with no regard for the law."

ISPs' concerns

The Internet Service Providers' Association (Ispa) said that its members had concerns that the judgement may lead to a raft of takedowns by copyright holders, which may prove ineffectual.

"Concerns about over-blocking, ease of circumvention and increased encryption are widely recognised which means that blocking is not a silver bullet to stop online copyright infringement," said Ispa secretary general Nicholas Lansman. "There should be more focus on offering innovative, fully licensed content services to give consumers what they are clearly demanding."

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Network operator Interoute echoed Ispa's concerns over the ineffectual nature of web blocking for copyright infringement.

"To prevent access to Newzbin2, the injunction will need to be taken to all other UK internet service providers, and that in itself is a mammoth task," said Interoute director Lee Myall. "It will only serve as a temporary fix. Illegitimate sites are like hot potatoes. They change IP addresses and hosting providers to evade being shut down."

Digital civil liberties group The Open Rights Group (ORG) also said the judgement would be ineffectual, and added that legitimate content could be blocked or choked.

"Website blocking is pointless and dangerous," said ORG copyright campaigner Peter Bradwell. "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. If the goal is boosting creators' ability to make money from their work, then we need to abandon these technologically naive measures, focus on genuine market reforms and satisfy unmet consumer demand."

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Topic: Legal

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • This is a sad day for freedom of expression. This is the first judgement forcing an ISP to censor it's traffic.
    Even worse, this judgement forces BT to block any legal content including forums (normally a power reserved for proscribed terrorist or extremist groups) coming from the Newzbin server.
    This sets a dangerous precedent - removal of illegal material causing the removal of legal.
    Just how much "pirated" data, links, references even, is required to justify censoring everything? A couple of posts on forum? A link that slips through? A dodgy file in 1,000,000? how about 1:1000? 1:10?

    If a voice call is done over the internet eg Skype, BT must logically be as responsible for that content as they are newzbin.
  • This is insanity.
    What next - BT to censor Google? As a quick test, I just ran a search in google for the same illegal material, and you can find pages & pages of torrent files, ISO download sites & all manner of usenet links. Getting BT to ban this site is the start of a police state in all but name, which is sadly where this country is headed.
    CEO of rich companies should NOT be allowed to make the law.

    Also, despite what the industry says (and as a part of it I know what I am saying here) piracy does not affect sales - content affects sales. CD sales have dropped along with the increase in badly produced & overcompressed titles that are almost impossible to listen to - I buy around 50 a month, and return over 3/4 of them as unlistenable.
    Ditto movies. I have now lost count of the films I have returned to Amazon because the mix is terrible with the score & SFX drowning out the dialogue.
  • @Dave Soldin. "This is a sad day for freedom of expression" Just exactly what freedom is served by facilitating and obtaining material to which you are not entitled. In this response, I'm using the word 'you' in a generic sense to also embrace all those people who consider it right, proper and justifiable to facilitate or obtain 'pirated' material whether it be multimedia or software.

    The consequences of that argument, here and elsewhere, is that everyone's genuine freedoms are put at risk.

    Please explain to me exactly why you think it is right, and a freedom, to facilitate or obtain that to which you are not entitled. Explain also why you think this is right when, I'm sure, you acknowledge that stealing a DVD from a shop is wrong, where is the difference? Where does freedom of expression come into this argument?

    By advocating these false freedoms and rights you are, in fact, creating the very necessity for situation you are arguing against - self fulfilling.

    Of course, the entertainment industry has been slow to move with the times but this does not excuse wrong doing. There are other ways to protest - don't go to the cinema or, if you must, don't buy popcorn etc., don't buy the DVDs, or just make your voice heard in other legitimate ways.

    The argument holds good for the real world as it does for the Internet, the more you challenge the system by wrong doing, the more you will encourage the system to widen its scope and reach - exactly what you, and the rest of us, don't want.
    The Former Moley
  • It is frustrating that the film industry hasn't kept up to date with the way customers want to consume content, as a fairly-priced legitimate service does more to stop piracy than most enforcement tactics (look at the drop in BitTorrent usage in the US against the development of the Netflix service; it's a significant correlation). It's worrying, not because there's any 'freedom' to pay a company to let you download content they don't have the rights for, but because the filtering seems disproportionate to the offence.
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe