In a major victory for French cinematic professionals, a landmark decision by a Superior Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance) in Paris yesterday will effectively block the many illegal streaming sites that have sprung up in France in the last few years.
The decision not only obliges the companies in question to cease their streaming activity, but it will also force all internet providers and search engines to ensure that internet users are not led to these sites when they go looking for them.
The long and complex case was taken by a grouping of five representative bodies of the film industry in France in an effort to put a halt to the live streaming without permission of whole films and television programmes on sites such as Allostreaming or Allowshowtv.
The judges decided that the cinematic plaintiffs had sufficiently demonstrated that the Allostreaming network was “entirely or almost entirely dedicated to the showing of audiovisual works without the consent of the makers” and constituted an attack on their rights.
The court’s decision orders all the internet providers in France – namely Orange, Bouygues Telecom, Numéricable, Free, SFR and Darty Télécom – to “put in place and/or have put in place… all necessary measures to prevent within French territory… the access to by any means and most pertinently by blocking” a whole range of websites including Allowstreaming, Alloshowtv, Fifostream, Dpstream and their varietal forms.
The court went further in ordering the search engines Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Orange to “take or have taken all appropriate measures with a view to preventing the appearance on their services of all answers and results that would lead to any of the pages” of these sites.
While the issue of who pays for the cost of such measures is, as yet, unclear, there is no doubting the principal behind it. The enforced measures are to begin within the next fortnight and roll out over the next 12 months.
The film industry reps were clearly delighted at the decision and issued a communiqué, hailing the judgement as a “decisive step in the fight against piracy of films on the Internet… It’s a world first as it involves the dereferencing of pirate sites by the search engines and its a hugely significant step towards the respecting of law on the Intenet.”
The search engines gave a reaction of muted satisfaction, with some waiting to examine the detail of the text to see what the cost implications for them will be.
For Félix Tréguer – founder-member of the web-users’ rights organisation Quadrature du Net, however, this decision is a retrograde step:
“This judgement has once again endorsed the forms of private censorship that are developing everywhere on the Internet and which are undermining fundamental rights.”