The MPAA is seeking a court order to force domain name registrars, hosting providers, and payment processors to block and filter a site called MovieTube, essentially erasing the site from the Internet. While it does appear that the site makes copyright infringing content available to users, the Electronic Frontier Foundation raises concerns about the precedent that would be set if the court issues this order.
One of the major concerns which was raised back in the days of the SOPA/PIPA debates in congress, is that site blocking through the Domain Name System could cause serious technical problems with the operation of the Internet. Many engineers spoke out against SOPA, indicating that it could lead to fragmentation of the DNS as users create alternative domain name servers to resolve the blocked domains. They warned against heavy-handed censorship measures which could lead to network errors and security issues.
Now it seems the MPAA is trying to achieve through court order what it couldn’t achieve legislatively after the defeat of SOPA. Throughout the year, the MPAA has been filing lawsuits against sites, and demanding the courts issue temporary take-down orders until the lawsuit is resolved. Their targets are sites based outside the US, who are unlikely to offer any defense. Noticing a lack of defense against these lawsuits, the courts have no problem issuing take-down orders.
While the MovieTube case is similar to previous lawsuits by the MPAA, the EFF warns that court order being requested is even broader than in the previous cases. In addition to filtering the site from DNS queries and cutting off funding through payment processors, the court order also requires all third-parties providing services in connection to MovieTube to cease providing those services. This includes social media and sites which allow user generated content. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Tumblr are specifically mentioned in the court order.
While movie studios may have a legitimate complaint regarding copyright violations by MovieTube, incredibly heavy-handed and far-reaching court orders could be a cure worse than the disease. MovieTube has not yet been found guilty of any crime, and its a dangerous precedent to allow such broad censorship before a trial has occurred.
Is the MPAA in the right here, or is the requested court order too broad? Leave your comment below.