Thursday September 29, 2022

ISPs block pirate sites with sweeping legal rulings

A copyright battle has spawned a broad order demanding internet service providers block a number of pirate sites. The ruling was made by a New York District Judge in April. The rightsholders demanded monetary damages and an injunction to stop viewers from accessing the sites. They didn’t appear in court. Judge Katherine Polk Failla granted the request and ordered a long list of ISPs block Israeli-TV.com and Israel.tv. The companies must block the current addresses as well as any domains that could be “used in future… by any technological means.” Instead, users should be directed to a page notifying them of the block.
It’s not only ISPs that are affected. Web hosting providers, web designers and domain name registration service providers are all prohibited from doing business with these sites.
Copyright suits may ask for blocking orders. However, it is highly unusual for them be so comprehensive, according to Meredith Rose (senior policy counsel at the non-profit Public Knowledge). She says that the injunction’s scope and the inclusion of so many parties is not common. Third parties are supposed to be able to appear in court to contest blocking orders. This raises the bar to requesting them. This doesn’t seem to have happened.
Mike Masnick from Techdirt points out that the order is more like the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA-PIPA) — a controversial bill that was scrapped after widespread protests in 2012. SOPA-PIPA would have created an “rogue” category of foreign piracy sites that ISPs had to ban. This was something critics claimed could amount to an excessive censorship tool. “It is exactly the thing that the content lobby has been actively lobbying for for many years. Rose says that this is a dream scenario for many of them. “Rights holders want to be able go to court quickly and easily to get one order that they can then give to the rest of the world.
The order could be challenged by ISPs and other companies, or the defendants. It’s not clear which of the largest players will contest the order. AT&T declined comment to say whether it would contest the decision. Verizon also didn’t respond. (Charter didn’t immediately respond to a second request. Comcast declined to comment on whether it would oppose the injunction, but did provide some more details. Sena Fitzmaurice, spokesperson for Comcast, said that it was only recently that it had been aware of the injunction and its implications. She added that they are still studying it.
Rose admits that it is sometimes difficult to stop foreign piracy sites at source rather than trying to ban third parties dealing with them. Rose says that this is a State Department problem. “There are many ways to do it that respect due process and we need to work with them.”

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