France has been blocking ‘pirate’ sites for more than five years on behalf of the music and movie industries but last year academic publishers Elsevier and Springer Nature also got involved. As a result, a court in Paris ordered several of the largest French ISPs to block access to 57 domain names related to pirate scientific libraries LibGen and Sci-Hub.
Later that year, France broke fresh ground again. Following a complaint from anti-piracy group SCPP, a court handed down the very first European order compelling local ISPs to block file-hosting services.
Several weeks ago, Internet users in France reported fresh difficulties accessing many ‘pirate’ sites, mainly platforms that in some way offer access to streaming movies and TV shows. It now transpires that a new wave of blocking has hit the country following legal action initiated by movie industry groups.
According to NextInpact (paywall), the National Federation of Film Publishers (FNEF), the Syndicate of Digital Video Editing (SEVN), the Union of Film Producers (UPC) and the National Cinema Center (CNC) teamed up back in October 2019 to request the blocking of dozens of pirate sites.
Reports on the sites’ activities were compiled by local anti-piracy group ALPA, which noted that torrent site YTS reportedly made available 11,676 movies without permission from rightsholders, “the vast majority of which are legally available in theaters, digital or online.” TV torrent index EZTV was accused of offering 4,781 on the same basis.
Streaming platform Allostream reportedly offered more than 1,300 movies and close to 900 TV shows. Overall, it was estimated that almost three-quarters of the content on the site was pirated. When compared to the other sites this was relatively low, however, with most others clocking up 85% unlicensed copyrighted content. This evidence was enough to convince the court.
“[The rightsholders] have established with sufficient evidence that the disputed sites allow internet users, via the aforementioned paths, to download or continuously access works protected works via hypertext links, without having the authorization of the rights holders, which constitutes an infringement of copyright or neighboring rights,” the court ruling reads, per NextInpact.
In common with similar blocking applications around Europe, the French court considered not only the intellectual property rights of the movie companies but also the rights of the Internet service providers to do business and their customers’ rights to send and receive information on the Internet. In the end, the rights of the content companies outweighed the interests of the other parties.
As a result, the Paris court handed down an order on January 16, 2020, which compelled ISPs including Bouygues Télécom, Free, Orange, and SFR to prevent their users from accessing 36 platforms listed in the complaint. The vast majority appear to be streaming-related sites with the addition of torrent indexes YTS and EZTV.(full list below)
While there are 36 headline sites, the court recognized that these platforms can operate from many more domains. In respect of TV torrent platform EZTV, for example, the site’s .io, .it, .ch, .re and .ag domains are listed for blocking. For movie index YTS, three domains appear – yts.lt, .am and .ag. As a result, 79 domains are detailed overall in the order handed down by the Paris court, which is valid for 18 months.
Despite the comprehensive attempt at covering all domains, it’s likely the platforms will seek out new ones in response to the order. Should evasive action be taken by the sites, the complainants will have to obtain permission from a judge to update the list of domains.
The full list of sites blocked by ISPs following the latest order is as follows:
The related court order can be found here (pdf)