A High Court Judge yesterday ruled that BT must now block access to the website Newzbin2 – a site that provides links to pirated films. But is this the right way to tackle illegal downloading?
This ruling, which is in favour of the Motion Pictures Association, comes over a year after the High Court ordered Newzbin2 to take down all illegal content and pay damages to the relevant film studios. The site then went into administration and avoided having to pay damages, before appearing online again, running anonymously from Sweden.
There is no doubt in my mind that it is essential that copyright holders are protected by law – without this, the creative industries would surely suffer and, as a result, so would we. But what is the best way to combat illegal file sharing?
Is blocking people from accessing this online content a disproportionate response?
Give me a warning
Under the controversial Digital Economy Act, which BT and Talk Talk have unsuccessfully tried to halt, ISPs are required to send warning letters to internet users who rights holders claim to be illegally downloading copyrighted content from file sharing sites.
This seems to be a sensible enough approach. If you were illegally downloading files, you’d get a letter from your ISP telling you that they know what you are doing and ask you to stop. If you persist then you could face ‘technical measures’, including the slowing or blocking of access to the net.
But would that approach actually stop persistent illegal file sharers using sites such as Newzbin2? Surely they will just wait until they receive their second warning letter and then switch to a different ISP?
Censoring the internet?
On the other hand, asking ISPs to block access to content feels like a dangerous path to tread in relation to censorship and net neutrality. Not everyone feels this way, with Lord Puttnam, president of the Film Distributors Association commenting:
‘Finally, it seems we have a way to deal with rogue sites which will benefit the film industry including UK independent distributors and, more broadly, the entire creative sector.’
Personally, I think the best way to stop a large chunk of the illegal file sharing that currently goes on, and in doing so protect the incomes of our creative industries, is for these industries to ensure that cost-effective legal alternatives to this content is available for download.
Restrictive licensing of films, TV shows and music serves to fuel the use of illegal sites, as people who really want to see that film or listen to that track may feel that they’re left with no option but to illegally download it.
Is blocking websites the right way to tackle illegal downloading?
No (60%, 220 Votes)
Yes (28%, 101 Votes)
I don't know (12%, 45 Votes)
Total Voters: 366