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Recent case provides insight into the costs of web-blocking

By | Published on Wednesday 22 October 2014

Wiggin LLP

Torrentfreak has published some information on the costs of instigating web-blocks based on information provided in a recent case by legal man Simon Baggs of Wiggin LLP.

Baggs represented luxury brand company Richemont in its successful bid to force internet service providers in the UK to block websites that sell trademark-infringing counterfeit goods. During the case Baggs, who has also worked for the movie studios in seeking web-block injunctions, revealed that the legal costs of seeking each web-blocking court order are about £14,000, assuming none of the target ISPs oppose the move.

However, once an injunction has been secured, someone needs to keep an eye on the alternative URLs that blocked sites will likely launch in a bid to help users circumvent the blockades. The alternative domains can usually be blocked under the terms of the original injunction, but there is a cost to monitoring said domains.

According to Torrentfreak, Baggs is also a director of a company that can do that monitoring, which charges a set-up and monthly fee for every blocked site it needs to monitor, and he indicated that on average it costs about £3600 per website to hire such monitoring services, and to file paperwork whenever new block-evading URLs are found.

Torrentfreak has also looked into the costs on the other side of the equation, as in the time it takes the ISPs to instigate the blockades. Each ISP’s answer – which is outlined on the site – differs a little, though the consensus seems to be it can cost up to a £1000 in legal and admin time to put each blockade in place.

Web-blocking isn’t uncontroversial, even though it has become pretty routine in some jurisdictions, not least the UK. And the recent Richemont case may well result in web-blocks being sought by a whole load more IP owners than just the music and movie firms, who have led in this domain to date.

Assuming the record companies are paying a similar sum per web-block (and scaling up the costs even when multiple sites are targeted in one injunction), Torrentfreak calculates that the 47 injunctions secured to date would have cost the rights owners about £658,000 before any ongoing monitoring costs are added into the mix.

Which some might say further questions the logic of the web-block frenzy, though others might note that – when split between the entire music and movie industries – that’s peanuts compared to how much has been spent on the battle against online piracy over the last fifteen years.

And if only Google could be persuaded to de-list all and any web-blocked sites, then web-blocking might actually start working, in that it might redirect more casual online content consumers to primarily legit sources of music and film.