It seems copyright-related site-blocking is becoming more popular in Europe. In the latest example, a French court has ordered not only local internet service providers but also Google and other search engines to pretend that 16 video-streaming sites don’t exist.
The Paris High Court ruled last week that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo must all remove links to services such as dpstream and Fifostream, which carry copyright-infringing material, from their results (or “did carry” — it looks like Fifostream has actually shut down now). ISPs including Orange and Bouygues Telecom must block access to the services, too.
This sort of thing is fast becoming the norm in Europe. Countries such as Denmark started forcing blocks on The Pirate Bay back in 2008, but the rights-holders’ anti-infringement crusade really picked up steam with the British Newzbin ruling in 2011. Europe’s top legal advisor said last week that such blocks are legitimate, as long as they are targeted and there’s no mass monitoring going on to support them.
However, it’s quite novel for a court to tell both ISPs and search engines to block copyright-infringing services. Google has well-used facilities for the reporting and takedown of links to “pirated” material, but even in the UK the courts haven’t yet got involved in telling search engines to join the fight – indeed, a recent report by MPs lambasted Google for not zealously nixing such links in the same way the search engine handles child pornography.
Will the French approach work? It’s certainly thorough and a good way to dissuade the very casual user from using infringing services, but – as always — where there’s a will there’s a way. On the user side there are VPNs and proxies, and the services themselves will surely just adopt new addresses or identities and/or be replaced by a dozen similar services.
It wasn’t a complete win for the movie studios and TV production houses, though: the court told the complaining rights-holders that they have to bear some of the cost of the site-blocking. The ruling, for those who understand French, can be found here (PDF).