Israeli Court Lifts Ineffective Popcorn Time Ban

Israeli Internet providers are no longer required to block access to Popcorn Time websites. A District Court has lifted a preliminary injunction arguing that access restrictions are ineffective. The decision is a major disappointment for the local anti-piracy outfit ZIRA, which was also ordered to pay the legal fees of one of the ISPs.

popcorntBranded a “Netflix for Pirates,” the Popcorn Time app quickly gathered a user base of millions of people over the past year.

The application has some of the major media giants shaking in their boots, including Netflix which sees the pirate app as a serious competitor.

In Israel, local anti-piracy group ZIRA took several Internet providers to court this year, with the goal to have several prominent Popcorn Time sites blocked. This effort resulted in an initial success when a preliminary injunction was granted in May.

However, after a careful review the Tel Aviv court has now reversed this decision. One of the arguments of the court is that blocking Popcorn Time domain names is relatively ineffective.

The court concluded that since the developers of the software can’t be tracked down, there’s nothing that prohibits them from launching new websites to render the blockade useless.

“Therefore, blockage or shutting down Popcorn Time sites does not guarantee that the application can no longer be downloaded,” the judgment reads.

In addition, the court points out that Popcorn Time applications that have been downloaded already will continue to work, even if the sites are blocked.

“This shows that the benefit of the requested measures is minimal, if any,” the verdict notes.

The Internet providers who protested the blocking requests further argued that the blockades would require a lot of resources and hurt their image, which the court largely agreed with.

“The cost of making ISPs some kind of censorship authority is at least equivalent, if not higher, than the cost of copyright infringement,” the verdict reads, mentioning that free competition and freedom of speech may be at risk.

Finally, the court gave ZIRA a slap on the wrist by pointing out that the requested blockade wasn’t as urgent as the copyright holders claimed, since Popcorn Time has been around for a long time.

“These sites, which presumably were visible to everyone, have been online for a long time. Given that, it seems that the applicant delayed the submission of the application which contradicts their urgency claim on the requested preliminary measures”, the judgment reads.

The outcome is a blow for ZIRA and the copyright holders they represent.

In addition to the negative outcome, the court also ordered the anti-piracy group to pay $1,060 to cover the legal fees of one ISP. The other ISPs settled the fees in question out of court.

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