Back in 2011, Belgium was one of the first countries to implement a court-ordered Pirate Bay blockade. The action was the result of a lawsuit between the Belgian Anti-Piracy Foundation (BAF) and ISPs Belgacom and Telenet.
After being tested in many countries around Europe, especially the UK where thousands of domains are now inaccessible, the site-blocking train has returned to Belgium.
The Belgian Entertainment Association was formed nine years ago following a local merger of International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI, music industry), the Belgian Video Federation (BVF, videos), and the Belgian Luxembourg Interactive Software Association (BLISA, videogames).
On Wednesday, the organization filed a lawsuit at the French commercial court in Brussels. Belgian news outlet De Tijd reports that it wants local Internet service providers to block subscriber access to several ‘pirate’ sites.
Speaking with TorrentFreak, BEA director Olivier Maeterlinck says that several popular streaming sites are being targeted initially.
“Our action aims to block nine of the most popular streaming sites which offer copyright-protected content on a massive scale and without authorisation,” Maeterlinck says.
“In accordance with the principles established by the CJEU (UPC Telekabel and GS Media), BEA seeks a court order confirming the infringement and imposing site blocking measures on the ISPs, who are content providers as well.”
In common with earlier blocking cases elsewhere in Europe, the ISPs named in the case (Brutélé, Nethys, Proximus, Telenet) first want confirmation that the sites they’re being asked to block are acting illegally. That is the stated purpose of the BEA lawsuit.
“Site blocking is nothing new in Belgium. The Pirate Bay and Popcorn Time – which are not involved in the current action – have been blocked for a long time,” Maeterlinck continues.
“Studies and figures from abroad (e.g. UK, Portugal) have shown that site blocking has a positive impact on the legal offer while the visits to the blocked sites drop massively (approximately a 90% drop in Belgium with The Pirate Bay) and the overall piracy level decreases as well.
“Site blocking actions are effective and if we want to support the continuing development of the legal offer and increase consumer confidence in the online economy, these enforcement initiatives need to be continued,” Maeterlinck concludes.
In the UK, well over a thousand domains are blocked on copyright grounds and in Portugal, where a voluntary mechanism is in place, the current tally is more than 900.
Next door to Belgium in the Netherlands, the blocking process has been much more drawn out. Rather than being largely compliant, ISPs have dug in their heels and objected at every turn after being asked to block The Pirate Bay. That case was referred to the European Court of Justice and it will eventually fall to the Dutch Supreme Court to make a decision.