Should ISPs pay to block pirate websites? Supreme Court to decide

February 1, 2018

Broadband providers, BT and sibling EE, have today gone to the Supreme Court in London to appeal two key aspects of an earlier ruling, which forced major UK ISPs to start blocking websites that were found to sell counterfeit goods (i.e. abuse of Trade Mark).


Previously major ISPs like BT, Virgin Media, Sky Broadband and TalkTalkcould only be forced, via a court order, to block websites if they were found to facilitate internet copyright infringement (piracy)


under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. But in 2014 the High Court extended this to include sites that sellcounterfeit goods (here) and thus abuse company trademarks (logos).


The providers initially appealed this decision, not least by stating that Cartier and Montblanc (they raised the original case) had provided “no evidence” that their networks were being abused to infringe Trade Marks and that the UK Trade Mark Act did not include a provision for website blocking. Not to mention the unlikely risk that such a law could be applied in an overzealous way (imagine eBay being blocked due to a dodgy seller).


On top of that the providers’ also noted that such sites weren’t heavily used, unlike the major piracy havens that have already been restricted, and thus they felt as if it would not be proportionate for them to suffer the costs involved. As we’ve previously reported, website blocking is anything but cheap and that often goes for both the ISPs and Rights Holders (here).


In April 2016 this case went to the Court of Appeal (London) and the ISPs lost (here) but it now looks as if some of them didn’t completely give up. Today the Supreme Court began hearing a new appeal from BT and EE (Case ID: UKSC 2016/0159), which challenges two aspects of the related blocking order. Once again Cartier International AG, Monblac-Simplo and Richemont Int Ag are opposing.


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