Website blocking for cases of copyright infringements

Website Blocking Against Online Piracy

Image of a developer’s workstation working on website blocking technology

Site blocking is a critical tool to reduce online copyright infringements. At least 42 countries have either adopted or are legally obligated to implement measures ensuring that internet service providers (ISPs) block access to websites that abuse copyright laws. 

In countries where site blocking is adopted, it greatly contributes to: 

  • a sharp decline in usage of blocked infringing websites;
  • reduced overall usage of infringing websites; and
  • increased traffic to legal platforms with licensed content.

Around the world, site blocking orders are obtained in one of two ways:

  • Judicially, by which a court issues and order for ISPs to disable access to a specific site.
  • Administratively, by which an administrative agency or other component authority issues a similar order.

Under both approaches, sites are typically blocked as the result of an initial application by an aggrieved rights holder, which can be varied once ISPs are notified of additional domains, URls, or IP addresses that are to be subject to the initial blocking order.

Best Examples of Site Blocking Procedures

Finding Balance of Interests in the United Kingdom

Rights-holders in the UK follow an established procedure under 'Section 97' court orders that require ISPs to block copyright-infringing sites. The government encourages private agreements in principle between top ISPs and rights holders in order to quickly restrict access to websites when presented with court orders.

For a court to issue an injunction, it must be shown that the internet service provider was informed that website operators they serve have infringed copyright while using ISPs service.

As a response to the growing popularity of streaming content, the court has introduced live blocking orders for IP addresses used for illegal re-transmissions (IP addresses must be "unblocked" right after the live broadcasts).

So far this precedent has only been used to protect sports live streams. Decisions are issued for the duration of the season, after which it is necessary to request a new decision. Prompt work of ISPs allows blocking the sources of re-transmissions when necessary.

Russia’s Simple Site Blocking Procedure

Site blocking in Russia is divided into two stages: permanent judicial blocking of the site and administrative blocking of its mirrors for cases when the main site has been previously blocked by the court.

Here is an overview of the process:

  • Permanent judicial blocking of the site requires the satisfaction of two claims from the same rights holder on different copyright objects.
  • Prior to filing each lawsuit, it is necessary to request preliminary injunctions that allow to block existing and all the future URLs with infringing content for the duration of the litigation. Court ruling on preliminary injunctions is granted in one day.
  • When a court decides to permanently block a site, it enables rights holders to block all site mirrors via the simplified administrative procedure. Blocking a mirror takes no more than three days from submitting an application.
  • The Russian federal executive body RosKomNadzor that maintains a register of banned sites, is also responsible for enforcing site blocking inside the country.
  • All ISPs in Russia are obliged to restrict access to sites added to the registry.

Germany’s Protections Against Over-Blocking

The German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has ruled on two cases concerning internet service providers’ obligation to block access to websites with predominantly illegal content. 

Despite the fact that the claims to block websites were rejected in both cases, the Court laid ground rules in this matter. According to them, blocking measures can only be considered if the right holder has shared evidence of internet services provided by the targeted ISP and of actions taken against parties involved in the copyright infringement. The site blocking needs to have a reasonable ground to be executed.

The Court deems investigations necessary which may include hiring a company to conduct an inspection or onboarding of state investigation authorities. Blocking of the website is only deemed reasonable if a global assessment of the site reveals that the legally published content is insignificant compared with the amount of content placed unlawfully.

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