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Vodafone blocks piracy site in Germany without court order

By | Published on Friday 29 March 2019

Vodafone in Germany has blocked access to a popular piracy platform after a complaint from collecting society GEMA, but without the music rights organisation actually securing an injunction ordering the blockade.

Web-blocking, of course, has become a preferred anti-piracy tactic of the music and movie industries in multiple countries around the world. It’s especially useful where rights owners don’t know who is operating a piracy site or the operators are based in a country where it would be hard to pursue legal action.

With this anti-piracy approach internet service providers are asked to block their customers from accessing websites that primarily infringe copyright, or which facilitate or encourage others to infringe. Quite how web-blocking works varies from country to country, but it usually involves securing a court order or filing a complaint with a government agency.

However, the German division of Vodafone has blocked a site called Boerse.to – where people share links to pirated music, movies and TV shows – without any court order. Seemingly because GEMA had indicated it would go to court if the ISP didn’t act and Vodafone wanted to avoid having to deal with any future legal action.

Asked about the Boerse.to blocking by Torrentfreak, a spokesperson for Vodafone Germany said: “On the basis of a notification from GEMA, we have set up a DNS blockade for the ‘boerse.to’ domain. The blockade affects Vodafone GmbH’s fixed and mobile network”.

The tel co then cited recent precedents in German law regarding the responsibilities and liabilities of internet companies in this domain. The spokesperson went on: “GEMA has officially sent us a notification and we have set up the DNS blockade in order to avoid a legal dispute in accordance with the principles established by the Federal Court Of Justice”.

Vodafone added that it is “critical of these blocking requests”, but that it would nevertheless comply with its legal obligations. Though, that said, prior to instigating the blockade it did confirm that GEMA had tried to target the operators of Boerse.to directly. The music rights body then separately confirmed that it only employs web-blocking where the operators of piracy sites are unknown or impossible to reach.

Because Vodafone has voluntarily agreed to block Boerse.to, the site is still accessible via other ISPs in Germany, whereas usually – when web-blocking court orders are secured – they apply to all the major net firms in any one country. It will therefore be interesting to see how the other ISPs of Germany respond if sent similar complaints by GEMA.



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