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BT forced to block access to Newzbin2

Ruling could set precedent for future piracy laws

A British judge has made a landmark ruling which could set precedent for future rulings on piracy, net neutrality and file-sharing.

Justice Arnold's ruling has forced UK infrastructure provider BT to block all access to the file-sharing site Newzbin2, which aggregates content from Usenet sites for download by subscribers. A large proportion of that content is illegally pirated copyright material.

The case was brought by the Motion Picture Association, in an attempt to prevent illegal downloads of film and television programs, but the ruling clearly has possible repercussions for the piracy rife in the games industry, too.

"In my judgement it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright," said Justice Arnold in his ruling statement. "It knows that the users and operators of Newzbin 2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes.

"It knows that the users of Newzbin 2 include BT subscribers, and it knows those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin 2."

By forcing an ISP to comply with an access ban, based on a perceived knowledge of assisted copyright infringement, Arnold could well have opened the floodgates on a potential raft of similar rulings.

BT welcomed the ruling, claiming that its clarification of the rules was "helpful".

"It clearly shows that rights holders need to prove their claims and convince a judge to make a court order," a BT spokesman said. "BT has consistently said that rights holders need to take this route. We will return to court after the summer to explain what kind of order we believe is appropriate."

Originally, the laws and technology - known as Cleanfeed - used in the ruling were designed to prevent access to child pornography. Many believe that commandeering those mechanisms to deal with piracy is a step in the wrong direction.

"Currently CleanFeed is dealing with a small, rural road in Scotland," said James Blessing of the Internet Service Providers Association in an interview with BBC Radio 4.

"Trying to put Newzbin and other sites into the same blocking technology would be a bit like shutting down the M1. It is not designed to do that."

Whilst no game divisions were directly involved in the case, both Warner and Disney were heavily represented by the MPA.

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