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BT on site-blocking: Every case will need a court order

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BT's head of retail Simon Milner came out swinging after the legal setback over web-blocking. While admitting the company is "not deliriously happy", it welcomes a clarification. And BT won't be appealing the decision.

"We believe in an open internet – we won't do any other blocking," he told us. "We will never stop our customers getting to any service they want to get to.

"Unless a court orders us to."

Although the case went against BT, Milner points out that a test case has finally made the law clear. And since web-blocking requires a court order, he says BT is satisfied with that. Each web-blocking request will have to go before a court – where a judge must examine it on its merits.

"There's no suggestion in this judgement that BT has done anything wrong as an innocent intermediary. We said it's questionable whether an intermediary can have these obligations put on it. Now we know.

"It provides a level of clarity we've never had before.

"We've invested a lot of money in making our argument to the court, and we've got a pretty well-reasoned judgement that gives the lie to the idea that the law doesn't protect rights-holders."

Far from weakening the ISPs' case in the negotiations with copyright-holders, Milner suggests it strengthens them. The rights-holders said the law was inadequate – but the case shows it is. He conceded that the rights-holders' alternative self-regulation plan to Clause 17 would be a cheaper option for all parties, but nothing Milner said suggests BT is going to support a voluntary alternative to the DEA.

"We're not deliriously happy – but it's an area of the law that needed clarifying," he said.

Isn't BT spending millions to pander to freetards?

"We're not pandering to anyone. Even the current Secretary of State has said this piece of legislation is flawed; we've had legal advice that it's not compliant with EU law. Any prudent company would have to follow that up. If we hadn't, our shareholders and non-exec directors would have asked us 'why didn't you take action?'"

But the trenchcoat brigade don't exactly bring BT much revenue. Why not spend those millions on a decent music service?

"We are," said Milner – but couldn't disclose more details.

"BT Vision is doing well, YouView is coming along, we've got online gaming coming up – we'd like better access to sports and movie rights too." And he denied BT was doing a Kevin.

"We were the first UK ISP to agree to disclose customer details to rights-holders; we've developed a model order, and we're blocking Newsbinz."

Nick Lansman, secretary general of the ISP Association ISPA, put out this reaction:

"ISPA has long maintained that this is an issue that rights-holders should seek to address in court, rather than through voluntary means, and today's ruling should go some way to offering clarity on what is a complex area."

"However, concerns about over-blocking, ease of circumvention and increased encryption are widely recognised, which means that blocking is not a silver bullet to stop online copyright infringement. Rather, as the government-commissioned Hargreaves Review recently found, there should be more focus on offering innovative, fully-licensed content services to give consumers what they are clearly demanding."

Lord Puttnam welcomed the decision, saying "finally, it seems we have a way to deal with rogue sites which will benefit the film industry including UK independent distributors and, more broadly, the entire creative sector."

Note that an order couldn't be agreed between Hollywood and BT, for now all we have is a judgement. So Newsbinz2 lives on: and we note that Baby Princess 3D Paradise 0 and Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch Pure have just been posted. It's a service... ®

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