News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox and five other Hollywood film studios won a U.K. ruling forcing BT Group Plc, Britain’s biggest Internet-service provider, to block access to a website that promotes online piracy.
The judgment in London today is the first of its kind and the studios said it could be used to win similar orders against other ISPs. Fox, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures and Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures were backed in the case by the Motion Picture Association of America.
The ruling “is a victory for millions of people working in the U.K. creative industries and demonstrates that the law of the land must apply online,” Chris Marcich, a regional managing director for the film association, said in a statement.
The disputed website, known as Newzbin, liquidated after losing a related U.K. lawsuit last year, only to resurface with more than 700,000 members, the studios’ lawyers said. They argued BT and other ISPs must block the site altogether to prevent infringement.
“BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright,” Judge Richard Arnold said in the ruling.
While BT said it agreed Newzbin’s activities were illegal, it argued a court injunction would be inappropriate, because the website isn’t a customer of the company.
“This is how you test the law,” BT spokesman Simon Milner said outside court today. The judgment “sets a helpful precedent showing that you have to get a court order and prove significant infringement.”
Fox persuaded a U.K. court in March 2010 that Newzbin infringed its copyrights. The website went into liquidation to avoid damages and has been revived as “Newzbin 2,” the movie studios claimed.
“The judgment sends a clear signal that ISPs have a role to play in protecting their customers from rogue websites that exploit and profit from creative work without permission,” said Geoff Taylor, chief executive officer of the British Recorded Music Industry trade group.