After close to ten years of legal debate over the thorny issue of pirate site blocking, Austria is now one of many countries in the EU that restricts access to such sites.
The legal path was one of the more difficult ones to date and it took until November 2017 for the Supreme Court of Justice to definitively rule that The Pirate Bay and other “structurally-infringing” sites can indeed be blocked, if rights holders have exhausted all other options.
The Court based its decision on the now-familiar BREIN v Filmspeler and BREIN v Ziggo and XS4All cases that received European Court of Justice rulings in 2017.
In January 2018, T-Mobile was asked to block several new sites, including thepiratebay.org, thepiratebay.red, piratebayblocked.com, and pirateproxy.cam. However, the ISP feared the blocking had the potential to violate net neutrality rules since the domains aren’t specifically listed in a court order and are only considered ‘clone’ sites.
As a result, the ISP reported itself to the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR) for a potential net neutrality breach. Several other ISPs including A1, Drei, Kabelplus, Liwest, and UPC later followed suit.
In December 2018, T-Mobile was asked to block more domains – kinox.sg, Mov**4k.org, Mov**4k.am, Mov**4k.pe. The company highlighted no unusual issues, noting that the domains “correspond to those which have already been blocked on the basis of a court decision.”
The company now reports that following a request in March, it has also taken action to block a further 22 domains which are claimed to be involved in copyright infringement.
These include several Kinox, Mov**4k and Movie2K-related domains, plus burning-series.net, serienstream.be, streamkiste. tv, serienjunkies.org, and cinemas.to.
The list also includes the popular sites bs.to and s.to, platforms that were recently blocked by Vodafone in Germany without a specific court order, under fear of repercussions from music rights group GEMA.
While it doesn’t want to breach a separate and unrelated court order in Austria, T-Mobile still has concerns over potential net neutrality breaches after blocking the domains listed in the latest batch.
“The listed sites, in terms of their content as well as their design and functionality, are largely the same as those that had to be blocked due to judicial decisions,” it notes.
“At the same time, we have sent a letter to the regulatory authority to have these restrictions checked for compatibility with the TSM Regulation (net neutrality).”
In January 2019, telecoms regulator Telecom Control Commission said it will get involved when an ISP block is requested, triggering a supervisory process and a full review by the agency. Informal blocking of domains following a simple request from rights holders was therefore ruled out.
Moving forward, however, ISPs in Austria are still calling for an “independent judicial body” to confirm the legality of any blocking requests in advance to ensure that a minimum of time and resources are expended on the process.
The list of domains blocked by T-Mobile in the latest batch are:
– streamkiste. tv
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