The fact that ISPs around the world are blocking pirate sites to prevent copyright infringement is nothing new. The practice has been going for more than decade.
Aside from voluntary arrangements, such as the one currently playing out in Portugal, ISPs tend to wait for courts to hand down an injunction before blocking a site. In Germany, however, a new situation has raised its head.
On Tuesday, subscribers to Vodafone discovered that they could no longer access streaming portals Burning Series (BS.to) and Serial Stream (S.to). Rather than accessing the thousands of TV shows usually on offer, they were instead met by a blocking message presented by their ISP.
Both sites currently have messages on their main pages, explaining that Vodafone has chosen to block their platforms. In the meantime, local news outlet Tarnkappe has obtained a statement from Vodafone which confirmed that the ISP is blocking the sites.
“Due to the provisions of German and European copyright and telemedia law, access providers such as Vodafone are under certain conditions required by law to block access to websites with illegal content – eg to illegal streaming offers of films and TV series,” spokesperson Volker Petendorf told the publication.
While it’s no surprise to hear of yet another block, further information provided by Vodafone reveals that the block was put in place following a complaint from a rightsholder but without a court ordering a blockade.
Referencing a copyright case which was handled by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) during the summer, Vodafone now says it believes the decision has a knock-on effect that requires them to block sites in certain circumstances.
As previously reported, in that case the BGH ruled that WiFi providers cannot be held liable for piracy carried out by their users. However, they can be told to prevent access to file-sharing services and even block entire websites, once infringement has been confirmed.
Vodafone believes this applies to them too, since a copyright holder has informed them of an unsuccessful attempt to prevent infringements via the above-mentioned sites.
“Currently, the rights holder of the TV series ‘Das Boot’ has asked Vodafone to block domains that provide access to the ‘s.to’ and ‘bs.to’ websites. The copyright holder has made credible claims to Vodafone that this TV series can be accessed illegally via the Internet portals s.to and bs.to without the necessary consent of the copyright holder and thus illegally,” Vodafone told Tarnkappe.
“The copyright holder has assured us that it is not possible for him to enforce his rights other than by blocking access to these sites. Vodafone, after thorough legal examination, believes that we are currently obliged to block access to these websites in accordance with mandatory legal provisions.”
Currently, both BS.to and S.to have notices up on their main pages detailing ways that Vodafone’s DNS-based block can be circumvented.
“Some internet service providers, such as Vodafone, block access to Burning Series and censor your Internet access. Therefore, we recommend that you change your DNS name servers to the IP addresses of Google 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 or Cloudflare 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11,” BS.to notes.
Vodafone suggests that should the legal situation change in the future, the blocks against both sites will be lifted.
This is the third time this year that Vodafone has blocked pirate sites.
In August the ISP blocked access to Libgen after publishing giants Elsevier, Springer, and Macmillan obtained an injunction from the Munich Regional Court. In February, following a complaint from a movie distribution company, Vodafone blocked streaming portal Kinox.to.