June 14, 2018

The cost of Cartier's website-blocking orders

After a 4-year legal battle, the UK Supreme Court has just decided that internet service providers (ISP) implementing a website-blocking injunction should not have to bear the costs of doing so. Instead it found that the rights-holder (Cartier, in this case) should bear the ISP's reasonable costs. It held:

"The position in relation to website-blocking orders is no different in principle from the established position in domestic law in the case of Norwich Pharmacal orders, freezing orders and other injunctions granted to require an innocent party to assist the claimant in the assertion of its rights against a wrongdoer."

How is this relevant to New Zealand? Last year Sky threatened to file a similar application seeking website-blocking orders against New Zealand's major ISPs, to prevent their customers accessing web-addresses hosting infringing content. However, unlike the UK and Australia, where these types of blocking orders are now common, New Zealand has not amended its copyright legislation to allow this type of order to be made. Whether Sky would have been successful is not clear.

New Zealand is currently reviewing its Copyright Act and blocking orders will, undoubtedly, be considered during the review. It is also likely the Copyright Act will ultimately include a provision similar to section 97A of the UK's Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which enabled Cartier to obtain website-blocking orders back in 2014.

Allocation of cost of implementing the site-blocking orders should be part of that consideration, to avoid a long and expensive dispute of this kind happening here.


Recently a court in Shenzen, China, awarded damages to the tech giant Tencent as a result of a finding of copyright infringement – the work in question was written by Dreamwriter, an automated news-writing system developed by Tencent.

However, as AI applications become more autonomous, and make creative decisions with minimal human input, a question arises as to whether this is the right outcome. 

Our Copyright Act is currently under review and one of the questions MBIE has posed relates to whether the current rules relating to computer generated works are still fit for purpose and whether any changes are required. The first round of submissions are now closed, but watch this space if you would like to keep up to date on where we land on this issue.       

If you have any questions relating to adoption or use of AI technology, please get in touch.

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