Forcing Internet service providers to take responsibility for the actions of others is becoming an increasingly popular activity for the music and movie industries. On the one had there is huge pressure for ISPs to take action against their own customers in the form of warning letters and notifications, and on the other to provide a censorship service for websites that the entertainment companies would rather the world didn’t have access to.
The latest attempt at blocking a website comes from Verein für Anti-Piraterie der österreichischen Film und Videobranche (VAP) – the anti-piracy association of the Austrian film and video industry.
In October, VAP approached several ISPs with a request to block Kino.to, a popular movie streaming portal which ranks in the top 50 sites of both Germany and Austria. Kino.to hosts no illicit content itself but indexes material stored on file-hosters and other streaming services.
More than 1500 IP addresses and nine domains are present on a VAP blocking wish list including MegaVideo.com, duckload.com, Freeload.to, Speedload.to and Archive.to.
Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA) responded robustly to the request on behalf of their members, stating clearly that ISPs are mere carriers of information and that the request has no legal basis.
“It would be better for the rights holders to think about innovative business models,” said Secretary-General Andreas Wildberger.
Undeterred, at a press conference this week VAP announced that it now intends to force ISPs to cede to their wishes. They say they will do this by singling out one ISP in particular, UPC, to block Kino.to and other domains via a court injunction.
“Since the operators [of the ‘infringing’ services] cannot be found, we will hold the Internet service providers to account,” said a VAP spokesman.
In common with its division in Ireland (there it refused to cooperate with 3 strikes demands from the music industry), UPC is standing its ground.
“UPC enables its customers to access the Internet, but has no obligation and no right to selection or examination of the content provided therein,” the company said in a statement.
Werner Müller of VAP said the aim of the test case against UPC is to see whether the blocking of sites with “consistently illegal content” can be enforced via the courts.
The Pirate Party of Austria said it “is appalled but not surprised” at what it describes as a “Chinese-style” censorship attempt.
“It’s not about censorship, but rather the imposition of economic interests,” said VAP lawyer Andreas Manak.