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Copyright owners claim landmark victory over online forum

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A group of Hollywood film studios has claimed victory over a website that aided and abetted online piracy through London’s High Court, marking the first injunction brought against service providers who know users are abusing copyright law.

Newzbin.co.uk, a British indexing site which allows members to track down pirated material through forums, was challenged by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) after apparently widespread breaches of the company’s copyright.

The website provides links to unauthorised versions of copyrighted works including films, TV programmes, commercial software and other content, and reportedly earned over one million pounds from more than 700,000 subscribing members in the past year.

The High Court threw out arguments by Newzbin that it could not be prosecuted as it did not host any pirated material and simply pointed users in the right direction, but such a regularly spouted rebuttal is beginning to fall on deaf ears within the nation’s courts.

“I have found that the defendant well knows that it is making available to its premium members infringing copies of films,” ruled Mr Justice Kitchin.

“This service is not remotely passive. Nor does it simply provide a link to a film of interest. To the contrary, the defendant has intervened in a highly material way to make the claimant’s films available to a new audience, that is to say its premium members.”

According to MPA’s legal team, Newzbin’s prosecution marks the first time courts have considered penalties under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, implementing Article 8(3) of the Copyright Directive, which requires member states to allow rights owners to apply for injunctions against those whose “services are used by a third party to infringe a copyright”.

“This is a very significant win for rights owners,” added MPA’s representative. “The ruling held that companies that simply link to sites with infringing material can still be liable.”

In response, Newzbin said in a statement: “Sadly the MPA are stuck in a technology stone age. Rather than addressing their own broken business models and monopolistic commercial practices they seek to curtail innovation and freedom on the internet.”

The exact terms of Newzbin’s injunction will be revealed later on in the year, but with debate raging over similar measures to be introduced in the government’s Digital Economy Bill this year, Newzbin’s fate could mark a precedent for many similar sites.

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Written by Andrew Hodges

April 1, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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