Studios take Newzbin2 clampdown to big ISPs

The Motion Picture Association has written to major ISPs, saying it is about to seek a court order forcing them to follow BT in blocking access to Newzbin2
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The Motion Picture Association has begun the process of forcing the UK's big ISPs to block the Newzbin2 file-sharing site.

Virgin Media and TalkTalk received letters on Monday from the MPA, which said the film industry body plans to seek a court order to obtain the block. The letters also asked whether the ISPs planned to contest the order, the companies told ZDNet UK.

"[The MPA] is now coming after all the big other ISPs and asking them to do the same thing [as BT]," TalkTalk's regulatory chief Andrew Heaney said on Tuesday.

The MPA won a court order in July forcing BT to block retail customer access to Newzbin2, a Usenet site that helps people unlawfully share copyrighted material. The movie studio group made it clear at the time that it would at some point seek a similar block from other major ISPs.

In late October, the court gave BT two weeks to start blocking Newzbin2. BT began filtering traffic days later, using the Cleanfeed technology it had previously installed to prevent access to child pornography sites.

Virgin Media said it would block Newzbin2 if told to do so by a judge.

"As a responsible ISP, we will comply with any court order addressed to us but strongly believe such deterrents need to be accompanied by compelling legal alternatives, such as our agreement with Spotify, which give consumers access to content at the right price," a Virgin Media spokeswoman said.

The MPA confirmed that it had sent the letters. They referred to "the recent order by Mr Justice Arnold and asked the major UK ISPs whether they would consent to a court order requiring them to impede subscriber access to the Newzbin2 website," a spokesman for film studio group said.

The BT case was a second shot for the rights-holders, as a suit against the original Newzbin site succeeded only in shutting down its UK operations. In the interim, the proprietors simply moved their hosting to the Seychelles and mildly altered the name of the service, making an ISP-level block the only way of inhibiting access for UK web users.

Justice Arnold's Newzbin2 judgement was followed by a letter to BT from the MPA, the BPI and various other content industry bodies. The letter asked BT to extend the block to The Pirate Bay, a Swedish BitTorrent tracker that is also sometimes used for copyright infringement.

However, BT told the rights-holders that they would have to get another court order, as it would not institute any such block without a judge's say-so.

TalkTalk's Heaney said that ISP would take a similar stance, if it received a similar request.

The court order against BT calls only for BT Retail customers to be blocked from visiting the Newzbin2 site, and smaller ISPs that resell BT's wholesale connectivity are not subject to its terms. This means that, if the rights industry were to concentrate only on the big ISPs for reasons of practicality, customers wishing to circumvent the block could simply move to a small provider to do so.

"At this stage, we don't rule out any options," the MPA's spokesman said. "Our goal continues to be secure greater cooperation from all internet service providers in tackling pirate sites that are focused on wholesale copyright infringement and making significant money in the process."

The MPA will focus its efforts on only "the most harmful sites", he added.

Apart from changing ISPs, people may be able to circumvent BT's filtering of Newzbin2 using VPNs, proxies or the encrypted client that Newzbin2 released shortly after the UK court's judgement.

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