Digital Top Stories

BPI hopes to block three more file-sharing websites

By | Published on Tuesday 23 October 2012


Record industry trade body the BPI is seeking web-blocks against three more file-sharing websites, the BBC has discovered. Following the blocking of The Pirate Bay by all of the UK’s major internet service providers earlier this year, the BPI now has its sights on Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents which, according to Nielsen, collectively enjoyed over a million unique users in September.

The trade body has written to BT, Sky, Virgin Media, O2, EE (Orange and T Mobile) and TalkTalk requesting that they voluntarily block their customers from accessing the three offending sites. None of the net firms, even those more friendly to the content industries such as Sky and Virgin, are likely to comply with a request for voluntarily action, though the letter will be precursor to legal action.

The BPI successfully secured injunctions forcing ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay earlier this year after the UK movie industry got similar injunctions forcing the blockage of file-sharing community Newzbin last year. The Newzbin case proved that such injunctions could be issued under existing UK copyright law, even though the web-block provisions in the 2010 Digital Economy Act were all but removed from that piece of anti-piracy legislation.

That said, without specific provisions setting out an anti-piracy web-block system in English law, securing such injunctions can be a time consuming process. Though, according to the BBC, the BPI hopes to secure its injunctions against Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents somewhat quicker than it did with The Pirate Bay, and has set a desired deadline of Christmas.

How achievable that is remains to be seen, and ultimately is in the hands of the courts. The BPI will have to prove that the operators of all three sites are liable for authorising infringement by making it easier for others to infringe, that direct action against the three sites is impractical, and that therefore injunctions against ISPs – as the ‘customs’ of the internet – is required.

Of course web-blocks are controversial. Some argue that targeted sites will have some legitimate users too (small copyright owners may legitimately share their works), and that those users are unfairly hindered. Others, meanwhile, fear the precedent each web-block sets, and to what extent blocks could be secured against websites where legitimate use accounts for a higher portion of activity, but some illegitimate use occurs on the sidelines. And others still simply argue that web-blocks don’t work, because all blocks can be circumvented by people who know what they’re doing.

Commenting on its latest efforts to block access to file-sharing websites, the BPI told the Beeb: “Like The Pirate Bay, these websites are profiting illegally from distributing music that isn’t theirs, without permission and without paying a penny to the musicians, writers and producers who created it. It is plain wrong. The existence of these sites damages the growth of Britain’s burgeoning digital music sector”.

Meanwhile Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group countered: “Web blocking is an extreme response. If courts are being asked to block websites they need to be taking into consideration the rights of users and any legitimate usage of those sites. It isn’t clear whether a conversation between a judge, ISPs and rights holders is going to sufficiently represent the needs of users”.

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