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Summary:

The latest example of European web censorship in the name of copyright doesn’t just target internet service providers — it also requires Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to remove links to the offending sites.

DPStream

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).

  1. David Cartwright Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    Censorship is not a term that is appropriate in a discussion of this court decision. A pawn shop that is set up to fence stolen goods is a more fitting comparison.

    Copyright infringement is theft of intellectual property. And shutting down web sites that perpetuate such theft is NOT censorship. .

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    1. Valentine North Friday, December 6, 2013

      Well, that’s what the problem really is. “What’s the true definition of copyright infringement?”
      You say it’s not censorship, and compare it to a pawnshop.
      Well, all of those websites carry legitimate content, for which they’re the only distribution channel, thus it is censorship. Though, to be fair, it is kind of rare.
      The pawnshop, if your phone gets stolen and sold to a pawnshop, then you’ve lost money. If an mp3 is copied off of your device, you may not ever find out, since the copying of a file is too small to even calculate, and that means you’ve suffered no loss at all.
      There’s a lot of logic in that, and the problem is, there’s no true definition for what it really is. We ARE still working with laws decades or centuries old.
      I remember reading that in a town, some years ago, a 400 year old law was removed; it involved the burning of witches at the stake.

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