Film piracy battle heads to court |

Film piracy battle heads to court |

Motion Picture Association heads to high court seeking to block website that allegedly distributes pirated material

Josh Halliday, Monday 27 June 2011 11.11 BST

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech – there are said to be more than 70 pirate versions available online. Photograph: Weinstein/Everett /Rex Features

Hollywood film studios will take their battle against illicit downloading to the high court in London on Tuesday in an attempt to force Britain’s largest internet service provider, BT, to block access to a website that allegedly distributes pirated material.

Backed by studios including Warner Bros, Fox, Disney and Paramount Pictures, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) – the international arm of the US film trade body, the MPAA – is trying to get BT to cut off access to Newzbin2, a website that allegedly links to hundreds of pirated movies and music.

Tuesday’s high court case will be the first in Britain where an attempt is being made to force internet providers to block sites under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act. If successful, the ruling will pave the way for more music and film companies to go to the courts seeking the controversial blocking orders.

Spyro Markesinis, the vice president of legal affairs for Momentum Pictures, the distributor of The King’s Speech, said there were 75 different versions of the Colin Firth movie on Newzbin2.

‘The survival of our business depends on the revenues we receive for our content,’ he said. ‘Our recent film, The King’s Speech, is available on the Newzbin2 website without our consent. Neither we, nor the filmmakers, receive anything for this.

‘Lost revenues not only threaten our business and our employees’ jobs but also mean we have less money to invest in new films, so the whole industry – and particularly the independent film business – is at risk. That’s why we fully support this action against Newzbin.’

The film industry’s fight against Newzbin stretches back to March last year, when the high court ordered the site to remove all of its pirated material and pay damages to the studios. The firm behind the website, Newzbin Ltd, went into administration shortly after the ruling. However, a clone site soon appeared operated anonymously from Sweden.

Chris Marcich – the MPA president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa – said the group had ‘no option’ but to take its fight against Newzbin to the courts.

‘Newzbin has no regard for UK law and it is unacceptable that it continues to infringe copyright on a massive and commercial scale when it has been ordered to stop by the high court,’ he said.

Separately, the communications minister, Ed Vaizey, is leading a series of discussions with rights holders about setting up a voluntary web blocking body to curb illicit filesharing. Under the plans, ISPs would block access to websites such as The Pirate Bay on a list drawn up by copyright owners.

BT declined to comment.

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