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In a dangerous precedent, on 28 July 2011, an UK High Court judge ruled that
British Telecom (BT), the UK largest ISP, had to prevent its customers from
accessing Newzbin 2, a website searching Usenet and providing links to lots
of films, books and music – most of which infringe copyright.

The case was brought to court by six major film studios, including Warner
Brothers, Disney and Fox. BT will have to use in this case the technology
it has developed to block access to websites featuring images of child

According to Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, UK
courts have the power to grant an injunction against an ISP if it had actual
knowledge that someone had used its service to infringe copyright. The judge
in this case rejected Newzbin’s argument that it was merely providing search
results. “In my judgement it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other
persons using its service to infringe copyright: it knows that the users and
operators of Newzbin 2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in
particular infringe the copyrights of the Studios in large numbers of their
films and television programmes,” he said.

As Article19 has pointed out, the judge ordered BT to block its subscribers
from using even for legitimate purposes, and concluded that the
intellectual property rights of the rights holders “clearly outweighed” the
freedom of expression rights of the users of, and “even more
clearly” those of the operators of

Also, Article19 underlined that the high court order is very likely in
breach of international standards for the protection of freedom of
expression, particularly of the proportionality principle and considers it
has set too low the threshold for ordering blocking, it does not properly
balance the right to property with the right to freedom of expression, and
shows no consideration for the chilling effect of the measure.

Ordering the blocking of an entire domain name, and not of specific
web-pages, is also considered to be in breach of the requirement for
necessity in international law. BT also argued against blocking an entire
website suggesting it would be more proportionate for the studios to provide
a list of specific web-pages to be blocked but the argument was rejected by
the court.

Other campaigners, such as EDRi-member ORG, consider the decision as
“pointless and dangerous”. The worst part of this decision is that actually
the court does not really care if the technical blocking really works or
not. The judge wrote: “I agree with counsel for the Studios that the order
would be justified even if it only prevented access to Newzbin2 by a
minority of users”.

ORG also raised the concern that this precedent might be a first step for
future blocking injunctions. It also tried to emphasized that “blocking
should not be seen as an easy fix for complex social problems.”

Following this victory, the studios now intend to seek similar orders
against other large ISPs in the UK.
High Court forces BT to block links to pirate site (28.07.2011)

Will Newzbin be blocked? (28.07.2011)

A big week for copyright in the courts (2.08.2011)

England and Wales: blocking website sets bad international precedent