The High Court has granted an application by the Publishers Association (PA) to block access to seven websites which have been infringing copyright.
The application, made under 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, means that the UK's main internet service providers (ISPs) - BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and EE – will be required to block customer access to the seven sites.
The websites - AvaxHome, Ebookee, Freebookspot, Freshwap, Libgen, Bookfi and Bookreare - are all based overseas and have all infringed copyright on "a massive scale", according to the PA. Research from the PA has shown that more than 80% of the material available on the sites breaches copyright, with the sites claiming to hold 10m e-book titles. The sites make money through referral fees and advertising, with none of the money going back to the publisher or author of the works. The PA and its members have issued nearly 1m takedown requests to the sites, while rights owners have requested that Google removes 1.75m URLs from its search results which link to copyrighted material on the sites.
PA chief executive Richard Mollet said: "A third of publisher revenues now come from digital sales but unfortunately this rise in the digital market has brought with it a growth in online infringement. Our members need to be able to protect their authors’ works from such illegal activity; writers need to be paid and publishers need to be able to continue to innovate and invest in new talent and material. We are very pleased that the High Court has granted this order and, in doing so, recognises the damage being inflicted on UK publishers and authors by these infringing websites."
This is the first time that this kind of action has been brought by UK publishers, with the support of the Association of American Publishers (AAP). However, it follows on the from previous applications for section 97A orders made by the film and music industries.
One of the sites which will now be blocked was recently found guilty in a US court for intentionally infringing copyrights, with a default judgement of $37.5m awarded to the complainant, Elsevier.