Internet provider Vodafone has started to block access to the popular pirate linking forum Boerse.to in Germany. The ISP feels compelled to take this action, without a court order, to avoid a legal dispute with the local music rights group GEMA.
With millions of monthly visitors, Boerse.to is one of the most popular ‘warez boards’ in Germany.
The site launched in 2014, following the demise of Boerse.bz. Like its predecessor, it operates as a linking site where users archive and share links to pirated movies, TV-shows, music, and more.
A few days ago, subscribers of Vodafone Germany noticed that something wasn’t right. All of a sudden, they were unable to access the Boerse.to domain. Instead of the usual homepage, they were redirected to a blocking notification.
This came as a surprise, as there was no knowledge of a blocking request against Vodafone in German courts. Also, subscribers of other Internet providers could still access the site just fine, as the local news site Tarnkappe confirmed.
After the weekend, more details started to emerge. Vodafone confirmed that it had indeed started to block Boerse.to, but not by court order. Instead, it decided to implement the blocking measure following a request from the German music rights group GEMA.
“On the basis of a notification from GEMA, we have set up a DNS blockade for the ‘boerse.to’ domain. “The blockade affects Vodafone GmbH’s fixed and mobile network,” a Vodafone spokesperson informs TorrentFreak.
The measure doesn’t come out of the blue. Vodafone was previously notified by its service provider 1&1, which took action following a complaint from GEMA. The music rights group then went after Vodafone as well.
While there is no court order directing the ISP to implement a blockade, Vodafone believes it has to take action in order to avoid liability.
“GEMA has officially sent us a notification and we have set up the DNS blockade in order to avoid a legal dispute in accordance with the principles established by the Federal Court of Justice,” the ISP informed TorrentFreak.
In the referenced Federal Court case, last summer the Court ruled that WiFi providers cannot be held liable for piracy carried out by their users. However, they can be told to block file-sharing services and even entire websites once any copyright infringement has been confirmed.
“According to the Dead Island decision of the Federal Court of Justice in July 2018, there is a subsidiary obligation to act under Section 7 (4) TMG for the access provider,” Vodafone tells us.
“As an access provider, we are critical of these blocking requests. We comply with a legal obligation here,” the ISP notes, adding that it verified in advance that GEMA took its own pre-litigation efforts against the original infringers.
This isn’t the first time that Vodafone has implemented a pirate site blockade based on these arguments. It did the same late last year after it was notified about infringing activity at the streaming portals ‘s.to’ and ‘bs.to’.
Commenting on the blockade, GEMA said that it would prefer to take action against site owners directly. However, this isn’t always possible, often because the operators are unknown. Blocking is the only remaining option.
While many rightsholders will welcome this shortcut route as an easier way to block websites in Germany, the effectiveness of the measures is still up for debate.
Generally speaking, a DNS blockade is easily circumvented by subscribers, who can simply which to open alternatives, provided by companies such as Google and Cloudflare.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.