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MPAA Working to Bring Site Blocking to the United States

MPAA Working to Bring Site Blocking to the United States

by Alex GoraleDecember 11, 2014

The MPAA is discussing site blocking with major movie studios and law firms. They hope to implement site blocking within the United States using existing laws while avoiding a SOPA-style response from the public. While the use of site blocking to deal with copyright infringing sites is starting to take off in Europe, the United States has not yet experienced this type of censorship.

Two months ago in October, a major meeting involving dozens of studio executives, and maybe a Comcast senior engineer, took place. The agenda for the meeting included plan for overt and covert maneuvering to increase the support for site blocking policy.

MPAA Developing “Legal” Site Blocking Methods

According to TorrentFreak sources familiar with MPAA’s plan, the MPAA has been formulating their new plan to block ISPs since the failure of SOPA legislation in 2012. The MPAA has commissioned expert reports from well-regarded law firms from all around the country.

This past July, the law firms told the MPAA that most United States courts would probably require a copyright holder to establish that the offending ISP is secondarily liable before granting any DMCA 512(j) blocking injunctions.

Another option that the MPAA is looking towards is to use Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the “Required Joinder of Parties” as a way to obtain a blocking injunction to take down an ISP without needing to prove the ISP’s guilt. Using this technique, which the MPAA’s hired law firms called “promising, but largely untested,” would tie an offending ISP into a lawsuit against a different, “rogue” site that is clearly guilty of something.

Another potential attack vector involves getting the U.S. International Trade Commission to issue site-blocking orders to ISPs if certain statutory intellectual property rights are infringed. The last vector described involves rendering ISPs ineligible for safe harbor as DMCA 512(a) conduits. The MPAA hopes to tip the interpretation of the Communications Act to classify ISPs as telecommunications providers, and put them under the established regulations therein.

The MPAA’s drive to block websites is not going to abate. In order for torrent directories to move into the future, they need to start using decentralized technologies that can’t be touched by the MPAA no matter how red in the face the lawyers get. Peter Sunde, one of the founders of The Pirate Bay, has stated:

A planned retirement [of the Pirate Bay] would have given the community time and a way to kick off something new, something better, something faster, something more reliable and with no chance of corrupting itself. Something that has a soul and can retain it. I would have hoped that the internet community at this time would have replaced [the Pirate Bay] with something new and more innovative instead of stagnating in some kind of passive mode where progress is hard to see.

Decentralized storage options are currently being developed; a distributed domain name system (Namecoin) already exists. BitTorrent itself is even attempting to decentralize the web with their new Project Maelstrom.

Images from Shutterstock.

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