Over the years copyright holders have tried a multitude of measures to curb copyright infringement, with varying levels of success.
Site blocking has emerged as one of the preferred solutions. While blocking measures are not foolproof, the general idea is that they pose a large enough hurdle for casual pirates to choose legal options instead.
Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN was one of the first organizations to request an ISP blockade. In 2010, it went to court demanding that local ISP Ziggo should block The Pirate Bay. This marked the start of a legal campaign that lasted a full decade.
BREIN eventually succeeded and today The Pirate Bay is blocked, not just by Ziggo, but also by other ISPs who were challenged in a separate lawsuit. The final ruling opened the door to follow-up blockades. We expected these to follow sooner but, in public, BREIN remained quiet on the blocking front.
Landmark Site-Blocking Deal
Today it becomes clear that this delay was for a good reason. Behind the scenes, BREIN worked on an agreement with all large Dutch Internet providers to streamline the blocking process going forward.
The result is a “Website Blocking Covenant” where Ziggo, KPN, DFN, T-Mobile, Canal+, and members of the industry organization NLConnect, promise to block pirate sites when rightsholders obtain a blocking order against one of the other ISPs.
BREIN and the ISPs agreed on a rotation scheme that will target the legal efforts at different ISPs each time. In addition, all parties will cover their own legal fees.
Other costs will be divided as well. For example, the Internet providers will pay for the technical implementation of the blockades. BREIN, for its part, will bear the responsibility and cost for keeping the blocklists accurate and up-to-date.
No Net Neutrality Issues
The landmark agreement was reached with help from the Dutch Government, which took part in the negotiation process. This also involved advice from the Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) to ensure that the plan would not violate the local net neutrality regulation.
“This is an important step in tackling online piracy,” says Sander Dekker, the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection, adding that copyrighted content should be “fairly rewarded and not illegally distributed.”
ISPs Prefer No Blocks
NLconnect, which represents a variety of Internet providers, describes the agreement in a more practical manner. Managing Director Mathieu Andriessen notes that ISPs still believe that there are better ways to tackle piracy.
“Illegality must be fought at source, so we maintain fundamental objections to blocking websites,” Andriessen says.
“Nevertheless, we are pleased with the clear agreements in the covenant; when an independent judge orders in a carefully conducted process that an Internet provider must block a certain website, it is efficient for us as providers to follow up on this together.”
BREIN director Tim Kuik is happy with the deal. He says that it will help to limit traffic to sites that continuously evade law enforcement efforts.
“This is an important step in the fight against large-scale piracy. We see sites that persist in their illegal offering and are anonymously hosted with companies that do not comply with summons or otherwise offer the sites ample opportunity to seamlessly continue elsewhere.”
Six New Targets Identified
Speaking with TorrentFreak, Kuik says that BREIN already has an action in the mail to target six additional pirate sites, including their proxies and mirrors. BREIN hopes to have this legal procedure completed before the end of the year.
It is worth noting that the agreement doesn’t prohibit ISPs from fighting blocking requests on their merit. And if an ISP chooses not to put up a defense, others are allowed to take their place.
That said, with all the legal precedents in favor of site blocking, both at the Dutch Supreme Court and the EU Court of Justice, challenging a blocking request isn’t going to be easy.