* French movie, TV producers win case to block websites
* Internet service providers, search engines must comply
* Companies can appeal since decision made by lower court
By Leila Abboud
PARIS, Nov 29 A Paris civil court has ordered
search engines and Internet access providers to block sixteen
websites that stream copyrighted content, handing a win to film
and television producers' unions after a two-year legal battle.
The unions petitioned the court in 2011 after their requests
to block allostreaming.com, allomovies.com and others sites went
unheeded by Internet providers, including Orange and
Vivendi's SFR and search engines Google and
Yahoo, according to the court order issued on Thursday.
The court said the five unions representing film and TV
producers had "sufficiently shown that the Allostreaming network
of websites is entirely or almost entirely dedicated to the
representation of audiovisual works without the permission of
their creators" and break French intellectual property laws.
The court, which also said the search engines or broadband
providers should not have to pay for the cost of site blocking,
did not spell out exactly how the work should be carried out by
the companies and left that up to them.
The decision can be appealed by the companies affected.
Some of the defendants had argued that blocking the illegal
streaming websites was unworkable because users merely posted
mirror versions of the sites under different names and using
forums to communicate locations of pirated content.
The court dismissed the concerns, saying: "The impossibility
of ensuring the complete and perfect execution of the decisions
should not lead courts to ignore the content creators'
intellectual property rights."
The unions who brought the case welcomed the decision and
lauded the role that "judges can play to protect content".
Google, one of four search engines targeted by the lawsuit,
said it was disappointed and would evaluate whether to appeal.
"We will continue to work with content owners to help them
combat piracy across Google's services," said the company.
Google already operates a system where content owners can
send in specific web addresses of pirated content for the search
engine to remove. It got 57 million requests and acted on them
in six hours on average last year.
In the French case, Google argued that blocking entire
websites was not suitable since it could also cut off access to
legal content. It also said blocking entire websites was illegal
and incompatible with free speech.
Orange, France's largest Internet provider, said it would
apply the decision despite concerns on "policing the Internet".
It also said the ruling had positive aspects, namely that
Internet firms can carry out blocking by any technological means
they choose and that judges must be consulted.
"We remain convinced, however, that the only real effective
solution against piracy is the development of attractive legal
services for consumers," said Orange.