Court rules against Internet service provider

Hollywood majors have won a landmark piracy test case against the U.K.’s biggest Internet service provider, BT, forcing the telco giant to block access to the Newzbin2 website, which links to pirated content.

On Thursday Blighty’s High Court ruled in favor of the majors on all counts, marking the first time that an ISP has been ordered to block access to a site. It’s also the first time a litigant has successfully used section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act to demand action from an ISP to prevent infringement in the U.K.

The studios, repped by the Motion Picture Assn., sought a court order in June against BT, claiming that Newzbin2 had flagrantly infringed copyright. It estimated the site had some 700,000 users, generating more than £1 million ($1.6 million) per year.

In the ruling, Justice Arnold rejected BT arguments that it has no responsibility to act against copyright theft.

“In my judgement it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright,” Justice Arnold said. “It knows that the users and operators of Newzbin2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe copyrights of the studios in large numbers of their films and television programs. 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.”

Chris Marcich, MPA prexy and managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the ruling was “a victory for millions of people working in the U.K. creative industries and demonstrates that the law of the land must apply online.”

He added that while the test case wasn’t an attack on ISPs, the film biz needed support and cooperation from ISPs to deal with sites that “continually try to evade the law and judicial sanction.”

The creative industries welcomed the ruling. Momentum Pictures’ Spyro Markesinis said, “We applaud the decision and look forward to working with ISPs and the government to keep the pressure up on pirates.”

Producer David Puttnam, who is prexy of the Film Distributors Assn., said, “Finally, it seems we have a way to deal with rogue sites, which will benefit the film industry, including U.K. independent distributors and, more broadly, the entire creative sector.”

In March 2010, the High Court found that Newzbin was infringing copyright and ordered it to take down the material. The site shuttered but quickly reopened as Newzbin2.

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