The Motion Picture Association (MPA) has struck a blow against Internet piracy by forcing a major UK ISP to block access to Usenet indexing site Newzbin.
Following a High Court hearing in London today, BT will have to block subscriber access to the site which provides a searchable database of of binary files uploaded to the popular newsgroup network, many of which contain pirated movies, software and music.
The case was brought by the MPA, which represents Hollywood studios, after it alleged that the interests of its members were being severely damaged by the easy availability of copyrighted materials, according to Torrent Freak.
The judge in the case - which the operators of the site did not attend - decided that the MPA had a point and ordered BT, the UK's biggest internet service provider, to block the site.
“In my judgement it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright: it knows that the users and operators of Newbin2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the Studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes,” said Justice Arnold in his ruling.
“It knows that the users of Newzbin2 include BT subscribers, and it knows those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin2.”
Responding to today's ruling BT said in a statement: "This is a helpful judgement, which provides clarity on this complex issue. It clearly shows that rights holders need to prove their claims and convince a judge to make a court order. BT has consistently said that rights holders need to take this route. We will return to court after the summer to explain what kind of order we believe is appropriate."
Chris Marcich, the Motion Picture Association's European president told the Independent: "This ruling from Mr Justice Arnold is a victory for millions of people working in the UK creative industries and demonstrates that the law of the land must apply online. This court action was never an attack on ISPs but we do need their cooperation to deal with the Newzbin site which continually tries to evade the law and judicial sanction.
"Newzbin is a notorious pirate website which makes hundreds of thousands of copyrighted products available without permission and with no regard for the law."
Although Newzbin carries no illegal content on its own servers, simply linking to files stored on others, its use of NZB files - which dramatically simplify the process of downloading large binaries which are usually split into hundreds of smaller files - has attracted the attention of Hollywood's copyright cops.
Once the domain of only the most dedicated pirates, Usenet binary newsgroups have been opened up to a much wider audience with the development of NZB files and super-fast broadband.
HD-quality rips of pirated movies can now be accessed with a few clicks and downloaded in minutes rather than days.
Most savvy pirates will, of course, either move ISPs or find a simple way to negotiate the BT blockade but the ruling will have far-reaching implications for other sites providing newsgroup indexing in particular, and Usenet access in general.
The MPA will almost certainly target other newsgroup aggregation services buoyed by today's landmark ruling.