It hasn’t been so long ago that in order to shut down or block access to a file-sharing site, it would be necessary for the site to be breaking the law. BitTorrent sites located in countries where there is no such offense as ‘facilitation’ of copyright infringement operate legally, and this is why sites such as The Pirate Bay continue to thrive.
However, the lack of a legal basis to try to stop people from using such sites doesn’t hold back the likes of the IFPI. In February we reported how the IFPI successfully managed to convince a Danish court to block its users from accessing The Pirate Bay, despite the likelihood that this action breaches EU law. In the past, Turkey has blocked access to The Pirate Bay and Kuwait has recently blocked access to quite a few torrent sites in what appears to be a rising trend.
As attempts to actually close sites seems to be faltering, the IFPI is putting more effort into forcing ISPs to block access to them instead. The latest addition to this tactic comes from Israel, as the Haifa District Court – under pressure from twelve IFPI affiliated recording labels – has ordered the three biggest ISPs in Israel to block access to BitTorrent and http link site, HttpShare.com.
HttpShare does not carry any copyright material itself. Instead – and typically for this type of site – its users provide links to material stored elsewhere on popular file-hosting sites such as Rapidshare and MegaUpload, along with regular BitTorrent links.
According to a report, users trying to access the site recently from inside Israel have received a 404 error.
Haifa District Court Judge, Gideo Ginat said: “I order the respondents, that is Israeli internet service providers, to systematically block access to the illicit site, HttpShare, so that surfers cannot enter this site and utilize it in in order to impede upon the claimants’ copy rights,” while failing to mention a timescale for implementation, or duration of the block.
Of course, as is customary in these file-sharing cases, the site owners aren’t sitting back and simply taking it. In an effort to avoid the block they have apparently made some modifications to the way the site operates but they report that the ISPs are still managing to block them. A message on the site reads:
“The file sharing battle has begun. We’ll be left with a world wide web that contains only news.”
The site’s operators are insisting that the site “is perfectly legal”. Indeed, the site – like so many other similar ones – is thought to be operating legally, according to the laws of the country where it is hosted.
The site owners state: “According to legal codes in the Netherlands, sites providing external links allowing surfers to download movie, music, games and program are perfectly legal. Sites cannot store these illicit files on their internet servers, and that is precisely what we do not do. The site merely provides links to file sharing sites such as http and BitTorrent.”
It is thought that not only is the site operated outside Israel, but the owners aren’t living in Israel either, which adds further weight to the argument that the site operates legally. “The website operates from the Netherlands,” say the owners, “and the fact that is in Hebrew does not make it automatically subject to Israeli law! Israeli law applies only to Israeli residents and to websites operating from Israel itself.”
TorrentFreak contacted Tel Aviv lawyer, Jonathan Klinger, who feels the decision of the court is problematic, he writes: “First of all, it has no legal grounds (the decision itself was given like in the Wikileaks case, with the Defendant’s consent). Not the Israeli Copyright Order nor the civil torts act or the Copyright Act acknowledge an Injunction blocking Users from accessing a website in this level, as the users are not a party to the process nor is the ISP a hosting provider. The ISP is simply granting access to a website which only provides links for users to use in file sharing programs. The Users themselves chose to infringe copyright. (and until today no court decision was given claiming links to files stored elsewhere deem as liability for copyright infringement).”
But of course, the IFPI (like the MPAA) doesn’t really care for such detail, with their ‘Director of the Enforcement Unit’, Moti Amitai simply stating: “The IFPI has taken action against sites which operate from Israel and whose proprietors are Israeli.”
Perhaps signaling a widening of this blocking strategy Amitai said: “We want to utilize this verdict as a precedent and go after international sites as well. We are now looking into the logistics and the legal issues involved.”
In the meantime, HttpShare is operating perfectly well (worldwide) for everyone not using the three main Israeli ISPs, either using its domain name or its IP-address.