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Court order in US web-blocking case likely to be stripped back

By | Published on Tuesday 5 July 2022


A wide ranging court order issued in a piracy case in the US – which seemed to set the precedent that web-blocking was now possible in America – looks like it will be greatly reduced in scope.

The court order was secured as part of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by a group of Israeli movie and media companies against piracy sites, and As well as ruling against those three sites, the judge overseeing the case also ordered internet companies to stop providing any services to the people and companies that operate them, and told internet service providers to put in place some web-blocks.

Although web-blocking – where ISPs are told to block their users from accessing copyright infringing websites – has become a routine anti-piracy tactic in many countries around the world, the practice hasn’t generally been available to copyright owners in the US, because when politicians proposed putting specific web-blocking provisions into copyright law it proved very controversial indeed.

That made the ruling in this case very interesting. Although, shortly after the court order had been issued in relation to, and, the movie and media companies that pursued the case told the judge they probably didn’t need to the web-blocks.

However, they did seem to be enforcing other elements of the court order that said US internet companies shouldn’t provide any services to any people or companies linked to the three piracy sites. So much so, the plaintiffs returned to court asking the judge to hold one of those internet companies – Cloudflare – in contempt of court, for allegedly not doing enough to ensure all services had been cut off to the three piracy sites.

But Cloudflare – supported by the likes of Google and the Electronic Frontier Foundation – pushed back, arguing that those elements of the court order targeting hosting companies, domain registrars and businesses like Cloudflare were also too wide-reaching.

Seemingly not too keen to go to battle with every internet services company in America, the plaintiffs in the case have been negotiating with Cloudflare et al regarding how the court order in their case could be revised so to be narrower in scope but more easily enforceable.

And, according to Torrentfreak, a proposed revised court order has now been submitted supported by the plaintiffs and those affected by said order, which is now awaiting judicial approval. The obligations of Cloudflare et al are greatly reduced in the revised order while the web-blocking elements are removed entirely.

It remains to be seen if the judge gives the proposal the green light, but it does seem that the impact of this case on the wider fight against online piracy in the US is now going to be pretty limited.