French Court Orders Search Engines To Block Piracy Sites
December 2, 2013

French Court Orders Search Engines To Block Piracy Websites

Peter Suciu for – Your Universe Online

Web surfers seeking pirated video content may soon have to look beyond Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing to find their illicit wares. On Monday, the High Court of Paris ordered Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to block 16 video-streaming websites from their respective search results. Several Internet service providers were also ordered to block the sites as well.

This case, which has been in the courts since 2011, was brought by five groups representing film companies, distributors and producers. The French court ruled that the websites were dedicated to the “distribution of works without consent of their creators,” the BBC reported.

The firms included L'Association des Producteurs de Cinéma (APC), which represents more than 120 companies including Paramount and Sony; La Fédération Nationale des Distributeurs de Films (FNDF); Syndicat de l'Edition Vidéo Numérique (SEVN); the Union of Film Producers (UPF) and the Union of Independent Producers (SPI).

All of the domains of the pirate websites were reportedly variations of video streaming websites “Allostreaming,” “Fifostreaming” and “Dpstream.”

The court ruled that those sites broke French intellectual property laws and were “almost entirely dedicated” to streaming content without the owners’ permission. The three search engine companies were given two weeks to comply with the court’s demands. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo must now take measures to ensure that those blocked sites cannot be found in any of their search results.

Various ISPs, including Orange and Bouygues Telecom, have also been ordered to prevent users from accessing the sites.

The five firms that brought the lawsuit released a statement applauding the court’s decision.

“The ruling today by the High Court in this case recognised the merits of the approach forcing ISPs and search engines to cooperate with rights holders in the protection of the law of literary and artistic property on the internet,” the statement read.

However, the search firms had countered that blocking the streaming websites remains difficult, as the pirate sites can quickly be re-launched under a different name, which could be found by users via Internet forums. Google released a statement that noted its disappointment in the court’s verdict.

“We are committed to helping content owners fight piracy across Google's tools, and we will continue to work with them so that they can make the best use of our state of the art copyright protection tools,” the company said in a statement, which was widely reported online.

The Motion Picture Association (MPA), the trade group that represents six major Hollywood studios, has reportedly also welcomed the verdict.

“Search engines are incredibly skilful, yet they are still leading consumers to illegal money-making sites even when the searcher is seeking legal content online,” Chris Marcich, president of MPA in Europe, Middle East and Africa, told the BBC. “The present situation is confusing for consumers, damaging the legal download market and legitimising copyright theft. The decision in France clearly is a step in this direction.”

This is not the first legal run in with European courts for the American-based search firms. Both Microsoft and Google have faced anti-trust cases in Europe.

However, earlier this year the European Union’s highest court ruled that social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook could not be forced to install anti-piracy filters designed to prevent users from illegally sharing copyrighted materials such as music and videos.