BT given two weeks to block Newzbin2

BT has 14 days to cut off customers' access to Usenet indexing site Newzbin2 and pay costs, the judge has said in a copyright infringement case brought by six US film studios
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

BT has 14 days to block access to file-sharing website Newzbin2, a High Court judge has ordered in a copyright-infringement case brought by US film studios.

UK High Court

A High Court ruling means that BT has two weeks to block the file-sharing site Newzbin2, in the first case of its kind. Photo credit: Cindy Andrie/Flickr

The order, handed down by Mr Justice Arnold in a written judgment on Wednesday, enforces a ruling by the judge in July that the ISP must prevent its customers from accessing Newzbin2. The case, brought by six US film studios, ended in the judge deciding that BT was aware the site was being used for copyright infringement "on a large scale".

The case marks the first time a British ISP has been told to block a website to protect rights holders' revenues. The rights holders are 20th Century Fox, Universal, Warner Bros, Paramount, Disney and Columbia Pictures, all members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

"In my judgment, the costs of implementing the order should be borne by BT," Arnold said. "BT is a commercial enterprise which makes a profit from the provision of the services which the operators and users of Newzbin2 use to infringe the studios' copyright. As such, the costs of implementing the order can be regarded as a cost of carrying on that business."

BT must pay the £5,000 cost of implementing the block, plus any other costs. In addition, it has to cover the costs incurred by the studios in fighting BT's appeal against an earlier judgment against it, running from December to July.

Whatever the forms of blocking, people will quickly find a way round that.
– Peter Bradwell, ORG

The ISP will review the order, but has no immediate plans to appeal the High Court judgment, a BT spokesman told ZDNet UK. "That option is open, but it's not necessarily going to be a route that we go down," he said.

Newzbin2, which describes itself as the 'Google of Usenet', indexes binary fragments of movies and other content uploaded by people to the internet discussion system. Others can then piece those fragments together to recreate the full item.

Under the court order, BT must use its Cleanfeed tool — usually used to block porn — to filter and stop traffic to all of Newzbin2's URLs and IP addresses. The MPAA will provide the company with the URLs to block, according to BT's spokesman. In the event of BT being supplied with the wrong URL, Newzbin2 or the affected party will have to take that up with the MPAA.

The group behind Newzbin2 released a client in September that they said would let people get around Cleanfeed to access the file-sharing site. In his judgment in July, Arnold recognised that BT would not be able to stop users who encrypted traffic using a virtual private network (VPN), or who bounced traffic through a proxy service such as The Onion Router (Tor).

Policing the internet

The Open Rights Group (ORG), a civil rights campaign organisation, said there is a danger that rights-holder enforcement such as the Newzbin2 block could push the general public into using more encryption. This would make the task of policing the internet more difficult and potentially more intrusive, it said.

"Whatever the forms of blocking, people will quickly find a way round that," ORG campaigner Peter Bradwell told ZDNet UK. "It should be a concern that methods of encryption and avoidance will become normalised. It wouldn't be a surprise to see an enforcement arms race, with demands for increasingly intrusive forms of enforcement, which could undermine privacy protections."

Bradwell said rights holders should focus on giving consumers better legal sites, with a wider choice of content, to gain more revenues.

The ruling sets a precedent that could lead to ISPs being forced to police content, according to voice and data network company Interoute.

"[It's] BT today — but who knows who will be, knowingly or unknowingly, hosting this website tomorrow with the same outcome? The next stop will be having the ISPs/telcos vetting content, and that would be an unsustainable burden," said Interoute director Lee Myall.

Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.
Editorial standards