Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A sweeping legal ruling orders ISPs to block pirate sites

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Shreya Christina
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A copyright battle has led to a sweeping order requiring Internet service providers to block a series of pirate sites — one of the most extensive such rulings to date.

if TorrentFreak recently reportedA New York district judge ruled in late April over a series of copyright lawsuits against three sites which rebroadcast mainly Hebrew-language television. The rights holders demanded monetary damages from the site’s operators – who failed to show up in court – and an injunction to prevent viewers from accessing the services. Judge Katherine Polk Failla approved the request and ordered a sizable list of ISPs to block, and The companies must block not only the current addresses, but also any domain that is known to be “used in the future … by all available technological means”. Users should instead be taken to a page that notifies them of the block.

It’s not just ISPs that are affected either. Web hosting providers, web designers, domain name registration services and advertising companies, among others, are not allowed to do business with the sites.

Copyright cases may require blocking. But it’s highly unusual for them to be that comprehensive, said Meredith Rose, senior policy advisor for the nonprofit Public Knowledge. “The scope of the ban and the list of so many players is out of the norm,” she says. Third parties should, among other things, be given the opportunity to appear in court and challenge blocking orders, which raises the threshold for demanding them. That doesn’t seem to have happened in this case.

Instead of, as Mike Masnick from tech dirt contoursthe order is reminiscent of the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA-PIPA – a highly controversial bill that was scuttled in 2012 after widespread protests. SOPA-PIPA would have created a category of “rogue” foreign piracy sites that had to ban ISPs and other companies, something critics say could amount to an overpowered censorship tool. “It’s exactly what the content lobby has been pushing for and lobbying explicitly for years. For many of them, this is a kind of dream scenario,” Rose says. “Rightholders want to be able to go to court and get one order quickly and easily that they can then present to the world with the text: no interaction with this specific website.”

ISPs and other companies — or the defendants — could still challenge the injunction. But it’s not clear that the biggest players will do that. AT&T declined to comment on whether it would contest the decision, and Verizon did not respond to a request for comment. (Charter didn’t immediately respond to a more recent request.) Comcast also declined to say whether it would push back the injunction, but offered a little more detail. “We only recently learned about it and its implications and are still investigating it,” spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice said.

Rose acknowledges that it is often difficult to shut down foreign piracy sites at source rather than trying to ban third parties from doing business with them. But “that’s a problem for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” she says. “There are ways of doing this that respect due process, and we need to work on that.”

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