Hollywood wants British ISP to block Usenet site

The Motion Picture Association (MPA) — the international arm of the Motion Picture Association of America — is taking British ISP BT to court this week, hoping to force it to block access to the Usenet site Newzbin2. A spokesperson of the trade group told The Guardian that Newzbin2 is infringing “copyright on a massive and commercial scale,” but a ruling that would force BT to block Newzbin2 could have impacts far beyond the site.

There’s a bit of history between Hollywood and Newzbin2: The site’s predecessor Newzbin was sued by several studios in 2009, and eventually found guilty of infringement in early 2010. Newzbin shut down in light of the ruling, but the site was quickly resurrected under its new name Newzbin2. Hollywood apparently decided it didn’t want to go to court again only to see the site come back under a different name, so it went after the ISP instead.

The lawsuit is a sign of increasing pressure against Usenet as a source of unlicensed content. Hollywood has in the past successfully sued Usenet.com, which provides access to news groups, including some that make it possible to download movies and TV shows. Newzbin2 doesn’t operate Usenet servers, but instead indexes content on these servers and facilitates downloading through .NZB index files, which can be compared to .torrent files.

BT was not only chosen as a target because it’s one of the U.K.’s biggest ISPs, but also because it also already has technology in place to block sites on the IP address level. BT developed a system to prevent access to sites that host child pornography in 2004. Hollywood now wants the ISP to use the very same filter to block Newzbin2.

Rights holders have long pressed for ISPs to use filters like these against sites like The Pirate Bay, and Newzbin2 seems like the perfect test case to enforce filtering. “If this case is successful, we would hope that other ISPs would take note of the result,” an MPA spokesperson told the Telegraph. In other words: A verdict against BT could lead to other ISPs finding themselves under pressure to block a wide variety of sites, including possibly The Pirate Bay itself.

Image courtesy of Flickr user ell brown.