Digital Legal

High Court issues Newzbin injunction

By | Published on Thursday 27 October 2011


The English High Court has formally issued its injunction against BT ordering the telco to block access to file-sharing website Newzbin2 following successful legal action by the Motion Picture Association earlier this year.

As previously reported, the MPA launched its bid to force BT, as the UK’s biggest internet service provider, to block access to the website, which provides links to all sorts of unlicensed content, after the operators of Newzbin moved the site to Sweden to avoid the jurisdiction of the English courts, which had previously ordered an earlier incarnation of the site be shut down on copyright grounds.

It’s an important case because it is the first time the British courts have issued a website blocking injunction on copyright grounds. Some of the copyright provisions in the Digital Economy Act set out a process for exactly that kind of injunction, but that section of the DEA is currently on hold with the three-strikes element taking (albeit slow) priority. But the Newzbin case showed that, while the on-hold DEA provisions might speed up the process, it is possible to get web-blocking injunctions on copyright grounds under existing laws.

There are two particularly interesting elements to the actual injunction issued against BT this week by judge Richard Arnold. First, the injunction applies to all and any web or IP addresses used by Newzbin, so that the MPA won’t need to get a new injunction when Newzbin tries to circumvent the block by providing access via alternative addresses.

And second, the MPA won’t have to contribute to any costs BT incurs in order to enforce the injunction, or to fight any other legal actions that may or may not stem from the block. The judge also said that BT customers won’t be able to sue over the blockage, because the ISP is allowed to instigate the block under its existing terms and conditions. The ISP has fourteen days to make it all happen.

This is all very interesting, because many expect movie and music industry bodies to now pursue similar actions against other file-sharing services and internet service providers, so the methods employed by Arnold set an important precedent.

Needless to say, the MPA welcomed the injunction, with its MD Chris Marcich telling reporters that “securing the intervention of the ISPs was the only way to put the commercial pirates out of reach for the majority of consumers. This move means that we can invest more in our own digital offerings, delivering higher quality and more variety of products to the consumer”.

Speaking for the music industry, Geoff Taylor of record label trade body BPI said: “It is high time that British musicians and creators had an effective way to deal with websites and services that rip off their music. This judgment is an important first step in that direction and shows responsible ISPs the way forward”.

Although BT originally opposed the injunction, it yesterday said it was “helpful” that the court order provided some “clarity” on how the web blocking process will work.