Website fights back in copyright legal row

Website fights back in copyright legal row

The owners of a website that was the subject of a controversial court blocking order say they’ve found a way to defy the order.

Earlier this year, a leading British internet provider was ordered to block its subscribers from accessing Newzbin following a lawsuit by the Motion Picture Association. That was a particularly contentious ruling as the site itself contained no illegal material: instead it simply contained an index of the NZB files that make it easier to download material from Usenet newsgroups.

The judge in the case ruled that the site should be blocked simply because the internet provider, BT, was aware that some users of Newzbin had used the site as an aid in committing illegal acts. It could be argued that using the same logic, BT should also be ordered to block access to Google, which both indexes and directly links to all manner of copyright-infringing material.

BT is now blocking the site with Cleanfeed, the same software it uses for blocking child pornography sites (which are undisputedly illegal.) That followed on from the lawsuit, which specifically referred to the Internet Watch Foundation, an independent group that maintains a list of child porn sites: virtually all UK ISPs blacklist the sites on this list.

However, Newzbin has now released software that it says gets round the block. It’s not gone into detail, but it appears to use a combination of encrypting connections and routing traffic through an anonymizing service.

BT is currently investigating the development. One important point to remember is that Newzbin itself was not made subject to the court order, and indeed likely couldn’t as the site is registered in the Seychelle Islands. It’s therefore very questionable whether Newzbin producing software that allows BT customers to visit its site breaches any rules.

Of course, the unintended consequence of this case is that Newzbin’s development of the workaround — which it will argue was only made necessary by the court order — could make it easier for people to get round blocks on child porn.

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