Torrent Site Blocking Endangers Freedom of Expression, ISP Warns

News

Website blockades are spreading throughout Europe, where they've become a common tool for copyright holders to target piracy. This is also the case in Lithuania, where a court has ordered ISPs to prevent subscribers from accessing the hugely popular BitTorrent tracker Linkomanija. The affected ISPs are likely to appeal the case as it could restrict freedom of expression and speech.

LinkoManija.net is the most visited BitTorrent site in Lithuania. The private tracker has been around for more than a decade and has made quite a name for itself.

While it’s a ‘closed’ community, that name hardly applies anymore considering that it’s the 32nd most-visited site in Lithuania, beating the likes of Twitter, eBay, and even Pornhub.

Over the past several years, Linkomanija has endured its fair share of copyright-related troubles. This includes a multi-million dollar lawsuit launched by Microsoft, which failed to put the site out of business.

Last week the Lithuanian Copyright Protection Association (LATGA) had more success. The anti-piracy group went to court demanding that local ISPs block access to the site. It won.

The Vilnius Regional Court subsequently issued an order which requires Internet providers including Telia, Bitė, LRTC, Cgates, Init, Balticum TV, to start blocking access to the popular torrent tracker.

“We are glad that our courts follow the precedents set in European Courts and are following their practices,” Jonas Liniauskas, head of LATGA told 15min.

“We really hope that internet providers will not fight the decision and that they have finally decided whether they are ready to fight against pirates who take away their customers, or want to continue to contribute to the illegal exploitation of works on the Internet by providing high-speed Internet access to pirated websites.”

LATGA’s lawyer, Andrius Iškauskas, pointed out that the torrent site was operating as a commercial venture. Between 2013 and 2016 it collected hundreds of thousands of euros through donations from its users.

Internet provider Telia is not happy with the verdict and says it endangers people’s freedom of expression and speech. While the company doesn’t condone piracy, sites such as Linkomanija are also used legitimately by copyright holders to share their work.

Telia pointed out in court that the anti-piracy group represented only 28 copyright holders and listed less than 100 works for which links were posted on Linkomanija.net. Despite these relatively small numbers, ISPs must block access to the entire site.

In response, LATGA’s lawyer pointed out that any rightsholders who legally distribute their content through Linkomania can easily find other suitable alternatives, such as YouTube, Spotify, and many more.

While the verdict is a blow to millions of users, the fight may not be over yet. The ISPs have 30 days to appeal the decision of the Vilnius Regional Court. According to Telia, this is likely to happen.

“We are currently analyzing the solution. It is very likely that it will be submitted to the higher court because the dispute is complex. This case can become case-law and determine when content is blocked on the Internet. This includes the possible restriction of freedom of expression and speech” the ISP notes.

Tagged in:

You may also like:

c There are 0 comments. Add yours?

comment policy