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File-Sharing Websites Blocked by High Court

The UK’s six largest internet service providers have been ordered by the High Court to take steps to block, or at least impede, public access to three popular file-sharing websites which have engaged in copyright infringement on an industrial scale. The court ruled that the injunction, granted at the behest of 10 music publishers, was a proportionate response to the websites’ wholesale disregard of intellectual property rights.

The record companies, with the support of the Motion Picture Association, the Publishers Association Limited and others, argued successfully that the enabling of mass copyright infringement was ‘the cornerstone’ of the business model pursued by the three peer-to-peer websites – KAT, H33T and Fenopy – which are amongst the most visited websites in the world and generate substantial profits through advertising.

The court noted that each of the websites conspicuously failed to instruct users in respect of the uploading or downloading of copyrighted content and openly educated them and facilitated discussions on how to circumvent blocking measures as well as giving advice on how to make use of copyright material without ‘getting caught’.  Each of the websites had also taken measures to frustrate international investigations, to conceal the identities of their operators and to avoid copyright enforcement actions.

Ruling that the websites’ operators not only sanction but ‘induce, incite or persuade’ their users to commit acts of infringement, the court found them liable as joint tortfeasors. The internet service providers had not actively resisted the injunction application and the court noted that the taking of appropriate blocking measures against the websites would be ‘modest and proportionate’.