Saturday, 22 June 2013

More site blocking?

The BBC have an interesting article yesterday "Premier League seeks ISP site block in piracy swoop".

Basically, the Premier League has asked major UK ISPs (not A&A) to block which operates from Sweden.

This is very different to the Pirate Bay blocks, from what I can see, though, as you know, I am not a lawyer. The Pirate Bay were (allegedly) encouraging / facilitating copyright violation by its users / visitors. The idea is that the files on The Pirate Bay provide means for people to download and upload and share illegal content, even though The Pirate Bay themselves don't host, upload, download, or distribute such content itself, as I understand it. The injunction was to get relief from the effects of the illegal activity of the users.

But what is happening here?

Are breaking the law?

Well, reading their site they obviously think not. They are providing links to streamed videos. This is just linking. They have a published take-down notice procedure, of which I am sure the Premier League could make use. If they are breaking the law then it is a simple matter for the Swedish authorities to take down the site, surely, or at least for the Premier League to get an injunction against the hosting company in Sweden?

Are the ISPs breaking the law?

Well, no, they are mere conduit. As an ISP I am very concerned that ISPs are getting dragged in to these disputes. Sadly mere conduit, whilst protecting ISPs from liability for the communications content, does not protect against these court orders. Maybe it should. As ever, the fact that these ISPs have blocking systems in place makes court orders easier.

Are the end users breaking the law?

This is where it gets interesting and potentially very different to The Pirate Bay. Due to a recent ruling, simply accessing a web site is not within copyright law, even where content is stored transiently in memory or hard disk as part of that process. So, clearly, viewing a streaming video is not breach of copyright by the party doing the viewing, just as reading an illegal copy of a book is not breach of copyright by the person doing the reading.

So what is this?

This is a company asking the courts to order some UK ISPs to block a web site they don't like. A web site that simply has links to other sites which they don't like. Surely all of the links in question will also be on google? If the courts can block, surely they can also block google? When does it end?

Or, perhaps, as the article suggests, the ISPs in question have a conflict of interest and would like to block the site, making the court order a perfect excuse. I don't know.

From reading the article, the order has not been made yet, but the ISPs have (apparently) said they will not challenge it. Surely this breaks any concept of net neutrality, something the EU seems quite keen on right now. And how long before people don't actually bother with the court order, they just ask ISPs to add sites to the blocked list with no checks and balances at all?

We said slippery slope when all this started back when it was just IWF blocking. I think the slope has become more of high speed water slide.

1 comment:

  1. So, Blocking for commercial reasons now.

    That didn't take long... Next up, blocking sites that publish negative opinions.