Majors want ISPs to combat piracy

Hollywood launched a landmark piracy test case against BT, the U.K.’s biggest Internet service provider, in Blighty’s High Court on Wednesday.

All six of the Hollywood majors sought a court order forcing BT to block access to the Newzbin2 website, which they claim supplies links to pics and TV shows made available without the permission of content owners.

The studios, repped by the Motion Picture Assn., said the site had flagrantly infringed their copyright. MPA estimates there are about 700,000 users of Newzbin2, generating more than £1 million ($1.6 million) per year for the site, which has anonymous overseas owners.

The High Court will make a judgment on the case, expected to last three days, after July 12, when a ruling regarding a separate case about the sale of fake products on eBay is handed down. This will help the court decide whether BT is liable for all content that flows through its broadband.

In the meantime, the majors and BT have been asked to put forward written submissions.

This case is the first in Blighty in which a litigant is seeking to use section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act to demand action from an ISP to prevent infringement. If successful, the case could set a legal precedent for content owners in the U.K. to call on ISPs to help tackle piracy.

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

In a statement, MPA prexy and managing director (EMEA) Chris Marchich said, “We have explored every route to get Newzbin2 to take down the infringing material and are left with no option but to challenge this in the courts.”

BT opposes the challenge, claiming that should the case succeed, the doors would open for a raft of other claimants that would ask the ISP to block access to sites.

BT and other ISPs have launched a legal challenge to last year’s Digital Economy Act requiring Web providers to step up their role in combating piracy.

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