February 28, 2013

Pirates Beware: British Courts Go Cyber Hunting with New ISP-Level Blocks


While the British navy was one of the biggest headaches for real-world piracy back in its heyday, media pirates these days are getting trouble from a different British institution: the British court system. The U.K.'s High Court has recently ordered ISPs in the country to block three more websites connected with piracy – H33T, Fenopy and Kickass Torrents.

These three sites in particular were targeted, according to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), as they engaged in copyright infringement on a "significant scale." The High Court, seeming to agree that this was the case, demanded that the ISPs shut down users' access to those websites.

On one end of the spectrum, groups like the BPI claim its approach of rampant banning of anything that smacks too hard of infringement has had some effect. A recent NPD report showed that there were some substantial declines in users illegally downloading music, instead turning to legal, easy-to-use services like Spotify.

This led Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, to say, "The growth of digital music in the UK is held back by a raft of illegal businesses commercially exploiting music online without permission. Blocking illegal sites helps ensure that the legal digital market can grow and labels can continue to sign and develop new talent."

However, there was a quick rebuttal from, not surprisingly, the leader of the U.K.'s Pirate Party, Loz Kaye, who called the BPI "out of control," asserting further that, "The U.K. has now handed the power over what we see on the Internet to corporate lobbyists."

Kaye had some numbers to back up the rhetoric, saying that the 2012 sales figures showed that blocking access to sites like the Pirate Bay didn't exactly help the music industry. Moreover, the BBC itself had a bit of data showing that blocking actions like those recently undertaken only had value in the short term, and levels of peer-to-peer sharing didn't take long to recover to their more normal levels.

It's something of a truism online that, what one effort can block, another can work around. Indeed, it doesn't often take long for these blocked sites to slightly change their Web presence and reemerge elsewhere, unaffected by a court ruling. That doesn't help the perspective of places like the BPI, who'd rather see that no one ever download anything ever again. But it certainly seems to be the case, and that's the kind of environment that these court rulings and such must operate within.

The realities of the Internet often prevent complete piracy protection, and that means other methods are required.

The idea of an Internet without piracy, on at least some level, just likely isn't achievable. Still, offering easy-to-use, inexpensive and hassle-free alternatives will go a long way in keeping piracy to a minimum.

Ensuring that the content people want can be had easily, inexpensively and safely will never go unappreciated – or unused.




Edited by Braden Becker



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