28 July 2011

British Court orders ISP to enforce border

A ruling of the High Court of England has just taken us one step further along the path of Internet Border enforcement. Twentieth Century Fox et al vs British Telecommunications has already spawned a large amount of commentary on the subjects of copyright, human rights, free speech, and modern digital society. But I think the more important aspect of this case is the implicit use of sovereign international borders in patrolling the Internet.

This case is (essentially) about copyright owners trying to block copyright infringement. The allegedly infringing activity has been facilitated by a website referred to as newzbin2. But (and here's the point that really interests me) the newzbin2 web site appears to be operating from a server that is "offshore" - which is to say somewhere outside the United Kingdom.

So the copyright owners want to enforce their copyright in the United Kingdom. The website is (effectively) outside the reach of a court order. Suing many thousands of people who download infringing copies is not practical.

The solution? Ask the court to order British Telecommunications to block the ability of UK customers to access the offshore website. And that's what the High Court did. You can read about it on the BBC here.

Put differently, this is an action by the sovereign state of the United Kingdom to enforce an import ban.

So there you have it: an Internet Border enforcement order.