UK High Court rules in favour of MPA in their bid to block access to pirate site Newzbin2

In a verdict widely welcomed by the UK film industry, the UK’s High Court has ruled in favour of the Motion Picture Association (MPA) in their bid to block pirate website Newzbin2.

The UK High Court handed down its judgment this morning, ruling that the MPA, supported by the creative industries, has won an order requiring Internet Service Provider (ISP) BT to block access to the pirate site, which has a membership of more than 700,000 and generates £1m+ per year for its operators.

The case is the first to use Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act to call for direct action by ISPs to prevent infringement using their services.

Among BT’s defence arguments, all rejected by the judge, were that they are mere passive recipients of infringing activity, they had no actual knowledge of infringement and shouldn’t be required to act beyond taking steps to prevent a particular infringement by a particular user and that blocking cannot be ordered as it amounts to a general obligation to monitor.

Newzbin was found to be infringing copyright in March 2010 and was ordered by the High Court to take down its offending material. The site went into administration, avoiding the payments, before re-opening as Newzbin2, a near replica of the former site which provides links to copies of films and TV programmes as well as content from games, publishers and music.

The six major studios maintained that this was a test case and that if they were successful in obtaining an order against BT they would seek similar orders against all significant ISPs in the UK. Other UK ISPs were invited to intervene in the present application from the MPA but did not do so.  

In his ruling today, Justice Arnold stated: “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 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 those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin2.”

The ruling was widely welcomed by the UK creative industries, and the film sector in particular.

Chris Marcich, President and MD (EMEA), MPA said: “This ruling from Justice Arnold is a victory for millions of people working in the UK creative industries and demonstrates that the law of the land must apply online. This court action was never an attack on ISPs but we do need their cooperation to deal with the Newzbin site which continually tries to evade the law and judicial sanction. Newzbin is a notorious pirate website which makes hundreds of thousands of copyrighted products available without permission and with no regard for the law.”

Lord Puttnam CBE, President FDA, commented: “Today’s result is an important victory in the battle against a commercial pirate site which refused to operate within the law.  Finally, it seems we have a way to deal with rogue sites which will benefit the film industry including UK independent distributors and, more broadly, the entire creative sector.”

John McVay, Chief Executive, PACT, added: “We are very happy with the outcome - it is clear that good sense has prevailed on this issue.  Pact has said for a long time that websites which pirate content should not be allowed to trade as this undermines the ability of legitimate businesses to recoup their considerable investment.  We now need some clear action to ensure that this judgement acts as a real deterrent to pirates.”

BT has been one of the most vociferous critics of the government’s Digital Economy Act, which aims to curb illegal filesharing. Last month the ISP failed to appeal a legal challenge of the Act which it says is inconsistent with European law.