Digital Legal Top Stories

BT says MPA injunction would “be the thin end of the wedge”

By | Published on Wednesday 29 June 2011


BT yesterday told the High Court in London that if judges issue an injunction forcing them to block their internet customers from accessing the Newzbin2 website, it will be the “thin end of the wedge” leading to hundreds of injunctions being applied for by content owners.

As previously reported, the movie industry, represented by the Motion Picture Association, has applied for such an injunction as part of a long running legal battle with the Newzbin operation, which provides links to content on the Usenet network, and in particular – the MPA claims – links to hundreds of unlicensed movies.

The MPA was successful in an earlier court battle which ruled Newzbin was liable for copyright infringement by providing such links. The judge in that case ordered the website to introduce filters to stop others from linking to unlicensed films. But after that court victory Newzbin went offline, only to relaunch pretty much as was from Sweden, out of the jurisdiction of the English court ruling.

Hence the application for an injunction to force ISPs – BT in particular – to stop people from accessing the site. However, it’s the first time an injunction of this kind has been applied for on copyright grounds in the UK, and if the MPA is successful it would set a precedent that under existing British copyright law such injunctions can be obtained. The Digital Economy Act included a provision explicitly allowing for such injunctions, though that whole section was put on hold by a last minute amendment to the Act before it was passed, which in effect removed the injunction system proposals.

According to The Guardian, the MPA told the High Court yesterday that illegal file-sharing was costing the movie industry “several hundreds of millions of pounds a year”, which hinders the ability of film studios to invest in new projects. But BT argued that if the court started issuing injunctions to block websites the content industries dislike, it’d be opening the flood gates and there could be up to 400 injunction applications a year.

BTs legal reps said: “Rights holders in the music and movie industries have already identified 100 copyright infringing websites which they would like to see blocked. Claimants would [also then] seek orders blocking access to websites alleged to contain defamatory allegations or private and confidential information”.

The case continues, though we could have a ruling on this within the week.