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T-Mobile Austria refuses to take recent ruling against rival ISP as reason to web-block

By | Published on Thursday 27 August 2015

The Pirate Bay

T-Mobile in Austria has knocked back a request from the local music industry to block its customers from accessing The Pirate Bay, though this isn’t so much the phone firm rebelling against the concept of web-blocking in principle, but rather insisting that blockades be ordered by the courts rather than rights owners.

As previously reported, Austria recently joined the web-block party with a court there ordering internet service provider A1 Telekom to block access to The Pirate Bay and some other copyright infringing websites. Deciding that set a precedent, a local music industry group wrote to other large ISPs in the country urging them to voluntarily instigate blockades against the sites listed in the court order against A1.

And that included T-Mobile. But, according to Torrentfreak, a spokesman for the phone firm in the country, Helmut Spudich, told Futurezone “we will not to comply with this request and access to The Pirate Bay will not be blocked”, before adding that the Austrian government “should implement clear legal regulations with regard to internet blocking in Austria. We don’t want our customers to be blocked inadvertently and would like a clarification on the correct procedure”.

As previously reported, web-blocking on copyright grounds has proven controversial in a number of countries, not least the US, with ISPs and tech firms often arguing that introducing such blockades sets a dangerous precedent and/or that web-blocking doesn’t work anyway (the second argument has more legs).

Though, in those countries where web-blocking has become the norm, such as the UK, the ISPs no longer seem so bothered about the concept and, as previously noted, at a recent Music 4.5 event in London, a legal rep from Telefonica talked up the tactic as being one of the more effective anti-piracy practices.

Though, that said, few ISPs would instigate a web-block simply at the request of a rights owner, or entertainment industry trade group, usually insisting that a court order be issued so that some sort of due process is gone through before any blocking occurs. Which seems reasonable, and these days in the UK the music industry normally speeds things up by including multiple ISPs and multiple sites to be blocked on each court order.

So until T-Mobile in Austria starts objecting to web-block court orders, it probably isn’t going against what is increasingly the consensus viewpoint amongst ISPs in Europe, ie web-blocks are fine. Though it calling for more clarity on the issue suggests there remains some confusion as to what precedents the recent A1 ruling actually sets in the country.