Two ISPs in The Netherlands have overturned a court order that forced them to block access to BitTorrent search engine the Pirate Bay.
Internet providers in the Euro nation were told by a district judge in 2012 to seal off the website from their customers, at the request of anti-piracy campaigners.
Two ISPs, Ziggo and XS4All, took the case to the Court of Appeals in The Hague – which yesterday ruled in their favor and reversed the banning order.
Crucially, the appeal judges said blocking the Pirate Bay had not deterred punters from using the BitTorrent network to illegally download copyrighted material. The ruling (in Dutch) noted that torrent and magnet link traffic for copyrighted stuff had increased since the Pirate Bay blockade was put in place as users sought out alternative search engines.
"The service providers' subscribers in any case mainly use proxies or resort to other torrent sites," the appeals court said. "The blockade is therefore ineffective."
Anti-piracy group BREIN, which applied for the Pirate Bay banning order back in 2012, yesterday criticized the appeals court – and claimed Dutch internet traffic to the Pirate Bay was down despite the overall increase in torrenting of copyrighted videos and music.
BREIN director Tim Kuik said his group, which is left with Ziggo and XS4All's 400,000 euro legal bill, is considering filing an appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court.
"The verdict of the court is negative for the development of the legal online market because it needs protection against illegal competition," said Kuik.
"The purpose of the blocking of The Pirate Bay of course is to decrease the infringements via The Pirate Bay. It is contradictory that the court finds that this goal indeed is achieved but then still rejects the blocking because users can go to other sites."
The carriers themselves, meanwhile, celebrated the ruling. XS4All called the decision a "victory for the free internet."
Three other Dutch ISPs – UPC, KPN and Tele 2 – are still subject to the original banning order and are maintaining their blockades; their hearings against the injunction will be held in March, it is understood. ®