For the first time ever, a Danish court has ordered a local ISP to block access to a news site. ‘The World News’ republishes hundreds of thousands of articles from third-party news sites. The website aims to combat ‘fake news,’ but according to publishers and the court, it infringes the publishers’ copyrights in the process.
For more than a decade, Denmark has been a testbed for pirate site blockades.
The first blocks date back to 2006, when music industry group IFPI filed a complaint targeting the unlicensed Russian MP3 site AllofMP3.
Not much later, Denmark became the first European country to force an ISP to block access to The Pirate Bay.
Since then, many other pirate sites have received the same treatment. These are typically download or streaming portals, which have been targeted in other countries as well. However, this week, a Fredriksberg court issued a new order that’s more unusual.
The verdict, handed down on Monday, requires local Internet provider TDC to prevent its subscribers from accessing a news portal called ‘The World News‘. Under the Danish ISP Code of Conduct, other major ISPs in Denmark will also implement a similar block.
The news site in question doesn’t offer access to any movies, music or games, but republishes articles from news websites from all over the world, often with photos included.
The site has an archive of millions of articles and can be tailored based on the reader’s location. The news articles all credit their source, but the link that’s included is often not clickable, so the site doesn’t send traffic back to many original publications.
The World News positions itself as a decentralized anti-fake news platform, built on a blockchain, and says it provides readers with ‘verified’ news. The site’s domain is registered in Panama, it’s managed by the U.S. corporation “World News LLC,” and is reportedly operated by people from Ukraine.
While it looks like a rather useful news aggregator, many articles on the site are republished without permission, according to rightsholders. In Denmark, this prompted the anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen (The Rights Alliance) to take the matter to court.
Representing the Danish Media Association, RettighedsAlliancen asked the court to order local Internet provider TDC to block the site. The anti-piracy group has previously submitted similar requests, but this is the first time a news site is targeted.
After reviewing the complaint, this week the Fredriksberg court decided that the site should indeed be blocked by TDC.
“TDC is required to implement a technical solution, for example, DNS blocking, which is suitable to prevent TDC customers from accessing the Internet services that the website mentioned in the claim currently gives access to,” the order reads.
The Danish Media Association is very pleased with the court’s ruling, According to Holger Rosendal, Chief Legal Officer at the industry group, it will help media outlets to protect their copyrights as well as their income.
“It is expensive to produce credible, informative and independent journalism, and thus there is a great need to stop the illegal exploitation of media content, which undermines the media economy and thereby the possibility of continuing news production,” Rosendal says.
At the time of writing, there are over 170,000 Danish news articles featured on The World News. The site only had a few hundred Danish readers per day in recent weeks, but the media companies believe that it had a negative impact nonetheless.
The World News itself appears to be surprised by the blocking order and states that it will remove content when prompted to do so by rightsholders.
“The World News is one of the biggest news aggregators in the world. We gather and analyze news from all media to detect fake news and facts manipulation,” a spokesperson form the site informed TorrentFreak.
“If we break the law in any jurisdiction, we remove any content from our servers for the first request in a few hours. We didn’t receive any notifications about rules violation from Danish media. We are completely on the side of authors and ready to work together.”
RettighedsAlliancen says that it tried to contact the site using the four email addresses listed on the website, as well as the domain name registrant address.
The Danish anti-piracy organization sent the website a cease and desist notice and informed its operators about the lawsuit, giving them an opportunity to defend themselves. RettighedsAlliancen informs TorrentFreak that these emails remained unanswered.
Technically, RettighedsAlliancen is not a media outfit, so both statements may be accurate. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the site will have to be blocked by Internet provider TDC.
RettighedsAlliancen stresses that, in addition to enforcing the news outlets’ copyrights, the blocking order will help to make sure that these publications get the revenue they’re entitled to.
“A blockade will also effectively prevent cash flows from ending up in the hands of criminal backers. The blocked illegal Panama-based service has, among other things, earned money from advertising revenue from visitors to the website – revenue that Danish news media misses,” the anti-piracy group notes.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.