Virgin Media Blocks File-Sharing Site After Receiving Court Order

After holding out on a Hollywood request to block a file-sharing site, Virgin Media has finally been forced to comply. The UK ISP said it would only block the Newzbin2 Usenet indexing site if ordered to do so by a court. Now, more than a year after the High Court told ISP BT to initiate a blockade against the movie industry target, Virgin Media has been ordered to do the same.

In what would become a pioneering battle to have a file-sharing site blocked at the ISP level in the UK, last year ISP BT found itself taking on the might of the major Hollywood studios.

The Motion Picture Association were seeking a High Court injunction ordering BT to block subscriber access to Newzbin2, a site they say causes the industry significant losses by helping people to locate movies and TV shows on the Usenet binaries system. The MPA won.

“In my judgment it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright: it knows that the users and operators of Newzbin2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the Studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes,” said Justice Arnold in the High Court last July.

In October 2011 the parties returned to court and BT was given just 14 days to use its Cleanfeed censorship system to block subscriber access to Newzbin2.

However, unlike this year’s blockade of The Pirate Bay, only BT were affected by the High Court order. The MPA had asked other ISPs to voluntarily block Newzbin2 following the ruling but they refused. In December 2011, ISP SKY confirmed that they had received an order to block Newzbin2 and in early January 2012 an order was issued for TalkTalk to block access.

All this time Virgin Media, a company that has a monopoly on cable Internet access in the UK, had continued to provide access to Newzbin2. That will soon change.

“We’ve received an order from the courts requiring us to prevent access to Newzbin in order to help protect against copyright infringement,” the company announced yesterday.

“As a responsible ISP, Virgin Media complies with court orders addressed to us, but we strongly believe that changing consumer behaviour to tackle copyright infringement also needs compelling legal alternatives to give consumers access to great content at the right price.”

At the time of writing, Newzbin2 remains accessible through Virgin Media and the ISP has not indicated how long it has been given to comply with the court order. Spokesman for Newzbin2 Mr.White said that he believes the block will kick in today.

When The Pirate Bay was blocked earlier this year, dozens of proxy sites popped up that gave UK Internet subscribers plenty of options to continue getting access to the torrent resource. Newzbin2, probably due to its lower profile, did not receive the same level of support, although the operators did release their own encryption software to allow users to circumvent bans. It received its latest update last week.

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