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Movie companies who got a US web-block order have asked for it to be stayed

By | Published on Tuesday 7 June 2022


The group of Israeli movie and media companies that recently secured some web-blocking injunctions in the US courts against piracy sites, and have now told the judge hearing the case that they probably don’t need them. Which is odd. Especially as web-blocking has generally not been a tactic available to copyright owners in the US in the past.

Web-blocking, of course, is where copyright owners get injunctions forcing internet service providers to block their customers from accessing piracy sites. In some countries, like the UK, getting such injunctions has become a preferred anti-piracy tactic for the music and movie industries.

However, when attempts were made ten years ago to formally introduce a web-blocks system into US copyright law, the whole thing proved so controversial that no one has ever dared to make similar proposals again, even as web-blocking has become pretty standard in other parts of the world.

But then, in the recent copyright lawsuits against, and in the New York courts, as well as ruling against the defendants, the judge also ordered internet service providers to block access to those sites, and other internet companies to stop providing services to them as well. It seemed like a big win for the plaintiffs that possibly set a new precedent providing all copyright owners with more legal tools for fighting piracy within the US.

But now, according to Torrentfreak, the plaintiffs in the case have gone back to court to ask that the web-blocking order against the ISPs be paused. That’s on the basis that the concurrent order against other kinds of internet companies – in particular domain registrars and registries – might be sufficient for curtailing the current and future operations of the three piracy sites, in the US and beyond.

They told the judge: “Plaintiffs are engaging diligently in efforts to enforce the orders against the non-party registrars and registries and the service providers in each of the order. Plaintiffs hope that because of such efforts, defendants’ streaming of pirated content that infringes upon plaintiffs’ copyrights will be limited. As such, it might not be necessary to enforce the orders against the ISPs”.

With that in mind, the judge ruled: “The court hereby stays enforcement of the obligations imposed upon the internet service providers by the default judgment and permanent injunction orders entered into in the above-captioned cases, pending further order of the court”.

Seizing the domains of copyright infringing sites is another common anti-piracy tactic, of course, and one that can have an impact in multiple countries rather than just one. However, many piracy sites have demonstrated how easy it can be to simply secure alternative domains, with search engines and message boards helping users find the new URLs for their favourite piracy operations. So, for most copyright owners, if it’s possible, you’d want to web-block as well as domain seize.

Of course, the movie and media companies in this case could still go back to court and get the ISP web-block order unstayed. However – as Torrentfreak notes – the fact they’ve asked for it to be paused at all makes you wonder what conversations might be going on behind the scenes with the internet companies, and whether the recent request is an attempt to stop the ISPs going into full-on battle mode in a bid to get the web-blocking orders cancelled entirely.