In a case dating back from December 2011, brought to court by the French Association of Cinema Producers, a group representing more than 120 companies including Paramount and Sony, together with other film industry organisations, the High Court of Paris has decided, on 28 November 2013, to order Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to completely de-list 16 video streaming sites from their search results.
The complaint targeted 16 domains connected to the popular Allostreaming, Fifostream and DPstream video portals and had previously received emergency interim measures. Last week the High Court of Paris ruled that the film industry had clearly demonstrated that the sites in question were “dedicated or virtually dedicated to the distribution of audiovisual works without the consent of their creators,” thus violating their copyrights.
Therefore, the search services of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and local Orange were ordered to take all necessary measures to prevent the occurrence on their services of any results referring to any of the pages on the respective sites. Several ISPs, such as Free, Orange, Bouygues Télécom, SFR, Numéricable and Darty Télécom, were also asked to implement measures to prevent the access of their users to the infringing sites, including blocking.
The defendants have tried to argue that blocking the illegal streaming websites was inefficient as users can post mirror versions of the sites under different names and use forums to communicate locations of pirated content.
The court replied that "The impossibility of ensuring the complete and perfect execution of the decisions should not lead courts to ignore the content creators' intellectual property rights."
However, the costs incurred by the measures to be taken will not be supported by the search engines and ISPs “The cost of the measures ordered cannot be charged to the defendants who are required to implement them,” the decision reads.
Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and the ISPs have two weeks to implement the measures which are to last for 12 months.
What actually the industry groups want is to give the Association for the Fight Against Audiovisual Piracy (ALPA) the right to automatically denounce the Internet intermediaries of the occurrence of “mirrors” of the infringing sites, without going through a judge. ALPA has developed some software that can trace the occurrence of a mirror of a legally blocked site. The intention is to have the software recognised by the court and to be able to deal with the issue and order directly the blocking to the intermediaries. And all this on the basis of article L336-2 of the French Intellectual Property Code which allows the rightholders to ask any measure against anybody, in order to stop or prevent damages to their interests.
The court decided however that in case of the re-occurrence of the blocked sites, the parties involved would have to go through the judge and not through the software. Yet, it left an open door to private censorship, through “self regulation” by means of a cooperation between Internet actors and rightholders to censure mirror sites.
”For the first time, Internet sites will be blocked by ISPs in the name of copyright protection on the basis of vague provisions of HADOPI law voted in 2009. This is very bad news as the blocking appears as a very dangerous measure having in view especially the inevitable risk of over-blocking perfectly licit sites. But the encouragement of a cooperation between Internet actors and rightholders to censure mirror sites susceptible to occur in the future is even more concerning. (...) this ruling comes one more to endorse the private censorship forms that develop everywhere on the Internet undermining fundamental rights. The concerned Net actors must, from now on, clearly convey their refusal to play justice missions and act as private police” said Félix Tréguer, founding member of La Quadrature du Net.
The association has drafted a legal note to point out that the measures required by the rightholders are breaching the European law and to draw attention on the lack of legal basis for such requests.
The websites in question have already took measures to announce their visitors on the new domain names and other ways to access their content.
Court Orders Google, Microsoft & Yahoo to Make Pirate Sites Disappear
The Court orders blocking Allostreaming galaxy (only in French, 28.11.2013)
Paris court orders blocking of 16 video streaming sites (30.11.2013)
AlloStreaming: a first legal blocking of a streaming site, soon the
private censure? (only in French, 28.11.2013)
DPstream organises its by-pass of ISP blocking (only in French, 3.12.2013)