Website Blocking: Copyright

The latest judgment from the BT/Newzbin case sets out what BT will be required to do to prevent its users accessing the Newzbin2 website that an earlier case found to be breaching copyright. From next month, BT will be required to add the Newzbin URLs to the system it already uses to limit access to child abuse images identified by the Internet Watch Foundation. I’ve argued for some time that using blocking for two different purposes is risky since (unlike blocking material that is generally considered abhorrent) it creates an incentive for those seeking free entertainment to discover and use techniques to evade blocks. Anyone who does so is likely to remove themselves from all blocks, including those that protect them from illegal material and security threats to them and their computers.

By being so specific about the technical approach to be used, the judge appears to have set a deliberately narrow precedent. During the case he was asked about extending the block to networks not covered by the current filtering system (paras 7-9) and about ISPs that implement filtering in a different way (para 4). In each case the answer was that that would require a different court order (and, presumably, a further court case). Furthermore the current order also applies only to Newzbin2 “and any other IP address or URL whose sole or predominant purpose is to enable or facilitate access to the Newzbin2 website”. It is not clear whether other ISPs will now implement blocks on their own BT-like systems, or argue that their situation is sufficiently different to require a new case.

By Andrew Cormack

I'm Chief Regulatory Advisor at Jisc, responsible for keeping an eye out for places where our ideas, services and products might raise regulatory issues. My aim is to fix either the product or service, or the regulation, before there's a painful bump!

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