Newzbin: What happens next?

Newzbin screenshot

It's safe to say that Britain's internet service providers (ISPs) and creative industries don't see eye-to-eye but in recent months they've been agreed on one thing.

The Newzbin case was going to be a key moment for the regulation of the internet in this country and the battle against piracy.

Yesterday Mr Justice Arnold delivered his verdict in the case which saw Hollywood squaring up against BT.

And the result of the case looks like game, set and match to the movie industry, with the judge ordering BT to block access to Newzbin 2. So what happens now?

If you believe BT, nothing much.

After fighting hard for months against the idea that an internet provider should have any role in blocking piracy, the telecoms giant put out a statement welcoming "a helpful judgement which provides clarity on this complex issue".

That might seem bizarre, but BT believes there is still plenty to play for.

Power shift

There was no time yesterday to work out the exact way in which the blocking of Newzbin 2 will take place. The warring parties will return to the High Court in October where BT says it will "explain what kind of order we believe is appropriate".

BT suggested in court that the order could apply only to specific files identified by the studios rather than the whole site, but the judge made it clear in his ruling that as just about everything on Newzbin 2 is infringing content, he wasn't minded to ask the studios to provide a daily list of offending files.

The landmark case could set an important precedent

Just how the blocking mechanism will be applied and who will check whether the process is working is far from clear.

But come October, when an order is issued, it will be taken to apply not just to BT but to all the major ISPs, who got a letter before the case asking them to act against Newzbin 2.

Until then of course, the Seychelles-registered website, now enjoying a marketing boost from the case, will continue to operate freely. That will mean plenty more cash for "Mr White", "Mr Pink", and its other owners who seem to be fans of Reservoir Dogs.

You won't find many outside the movie business who believe that blocking Newzbin 2 will have a major effect on piracy. But what the ruling does do is change the balance of power in the standoff between the creative industries and the ISPs.

Under pressure

In recent months, the government has been putting pressure on the two sides to agree a voluntary code whereby copyright infringing sites could be blocked following an order from a judge, but without a lengthy case like the one we've just seen.

When I suggested on air yesterday that ministers would now be more likely to press that kind of agreement on the ISPs, BT's Simon Milner disagreed with my analysis.

But last night I spotted a series of tweets from Ed Vaizey, the culture minister who has been brokering the talks over web blocking.

The first three welcomed the Newzbin ruling, echoing the views of creative industry leaders. The minister, who was apparently at home babysitting, was then engaged in what you might term vigorous debate about the rights and wrongs of copyright by other Twitter users.

Among his points: "Harry Potter made millions for UK. Shld u pay to see or get 4 free?"

twitter screenshots

So it is not only BT that thinks the Newzbin case has clarified the issue.

The government minister most closely involved in the debate about internet regulation seems to have made his mind up - and the ISPs can expect a lot more pressure to help out in the battle against online piracy.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Stephen - What you need to understand is that everything IS free to download. Not legally, it's true, but that isn't a major impediment in itself. What we find is that when would-be customers are offered the product that they want (i.e. DRM free, on time, etc.) they will pay for it. The reasons for choosing 'piracy' are more than just the price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Turn this one on it's head. Imagine everything was free and legal to download. Would you pay if you had the option? Who would pay for major projects under this model? Would you go to a major festival or event if it was free - or would you make a donation?

    Some will, but as someone who has organised festivals I have to tell most won't. People in put a very low value on their entertainment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    31st July 2011 - 14:55
    @5. Jack Allnutt
    So, the minister is right and you are wrong.

    I'm sorry to say that under English law copyright INFRINDGEMENT is not theft.

    Theft has to have a few characteristics, one of which is "with the intent to permanently deprive the other of it"

    A digital copy deprives no one, so is in law, not theft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I would have more respect for the ministers if they were as diligent at protecting our rights as they are at protecting those of the corporations,(and their lobbying money - but perhaps we're not allowed to say that).

    Media companies should develop a new business model that works.

    Meanwhile it costs us more in the UK than in Europe for every bit of media we buy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    As a musician I have given up on trying to sale music, so myslef like a lot of people now just give their music away for free.

    as you can see by this webiste most musicans, even the big groups are now alowing people to just listen and download for free


Comments 5 of 102



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