Major record labels, including the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and Phonographic Performance (PPL), have gone to the UK High Court in an attempt to force six of the country’s largest broadband ISPs to extend their website blocks for copyright infringement to include sites that facilitate stream ripping and cyberlocker Nitroflare.
At present ISPs can only be forced, via a court order, to block websites if they are found to heavily facilitate internet copyright infringement, which is supported via Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. So far well over 100 piracy sites have been blocked as a result of this (including several thousand proxy sites and mirror domains). Most of those have been file sharing (P2P / Torrent), video streaming or sites that sell counterfeit goods.
The existing process is very expensive and time consuming for both sides to pursue and implement, although Rights Holders have often deemed it to be a price worth paying as part of their wider efforts to discourage casual piracy by internet users.
According to Torrent Freak, the BPI and PPL are now seeking to extend this measure in order to force BT, Virgin Media, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, EE and Plusnet into blocking several additional websites that are often used to facilitate stream ripping (e.g. taking a YouTube video and saving it to a re-playable file on your hard disk, which could be considered as unlicensed (pirated) copies).
By extension, the labels argue that since the stream-ripping platforms authorize and facilitate the creation of such pirate copies, contrary to the Copyright Act, then they too should be held liable for users’ infringement. The success of this may hinge, at least in part, on whether or not those sites clearly promote themselves for use in such a way.
Kiaron Whitehead, BPI General Counsel, said:
“On 3rd February 2021, the High Court in London held an online hearing for a new set of website blocking cases, brought by the BPI to help reduce music piracy in the UK. The judge, Mr Justice Miles, has reserved his judgement and so we await receiving his ruling, and his written reasons for it, in due course.”
So far as we can tell the record labels seems to be pointing the finger at the following sites: 2conv, flvto, 2Convert, H2Converter, H2Download, Flv2mp3, Flvtool and Ytbapi. Meanwhile Sony Music, Warner Bros. Records and other recording companies have also asked the same court to block access to Nitroflare, which is a cyberlocker site (i.e. one that provides online file-storing and file-sharing services).
The blocking of online file storage and sharing services is typically much more legally contentious because they can also be widely used for legal purposes too (i.e. protected by safe harbour provisions). But the labels argue that this doesn’t apply to Nitroflare because, they claim, the site is “essentially structured for infringement and it can’t be a protection for pirates.”
Judge Justice Miles is expected to reveal his decision in due course, although it is not currently known when this will occur. The catch with stream ripper sites is that people can alternatively achieve the same result by using various software tools, which is much harder to stop.
UPDATE 25th February 2021
The High Court has approved the new blocks against all of the sites, including Nitroflare. The BPI’ General Counsel, Kiaron Whitehead, said the judgements “are not a silver bullet, but they develop existing European law and represent a significant step forwards in copyright law in the UK. We are grateful to the High Court in dealing with this group litigation so efficiently in an online hearing. The BPI will be taking further actions following these judgements.”
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