Open Rights Group Scores Victory At Supreme Court Over Site Blocking

UK digital rights organization The Open Rights Group says it has scored a victory at the Supreme Court. ISPs no longer have to bear the costs of site blocking.

With so much bad news coming out of the region including the passage of Article 13, it’s nice to hear some good news for a change. Major corporate rights holders have long said that the costs of blocking websites should fall onto the ISPs so that rights holders do not have to pay for enforcement.

That provision appears to have been struck down by the Supreme Court. The Open Rights Group fought to have this aspect of the laws overturned. At the end of the day, they won their case.

“This case is important because if ISPs paid the costs of blocking websites, the result would be an increasing number of blocks for relatively trivial reasons and the costs would be passed to customers.” Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said.

“While rights holders may want websites blocked, it needs to be economically rational to ask for this.”

Solicitor in the case David Allen Green said, “I am delighted to have acted, through my firm Preiskel, successfully for the Open Rights Group in their intervention.

“We intervened to say that those enforcing private rights on internet should bear the costs of doing so, not others. This morning, the UK Supreme Court held unanimously that the rights holders should bear the costs.”

While forcing the costs back onto the major corporate rights holders may sound like a small victory, making them pay for enforcement has long been a deal breaker for those rights holders when it comes to overly broad copyright laws. Mass file-sharing lawsuits and three strikes laws suddenly fall by the wayside as soon as it is no longer a profit generating machine for those rights holders.

As a result, a ruling like this can stunt the expansion of mass Internet censorship – at least in the context of accusations of copyright infringement.

As for rights holders, the fight to censor the internet for free is likely not over. They can lobby the government again and have lawmakers re-instate this in some manner. Alternatively, they can try and convince ISPs that they shouldn’t bear the costs of private enforcement. Both angles feature their own set of challenges. It’ll be interesting to see where rights holders go from here.

This ruling, of course, doesn’t totally solve web censorship in the country. There is still the issue of overblocking through government mandated parental filters. So, by no means is the country out of the censorship woods yet, but it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a step in the right direction.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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