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MPAA research bigs up UK web-blocking

By | Published on Monday 1 September 2014

The Pirate Bay

Research from the Motion Picture Association Of America reportedly claims that web-blocking in the UK is proving a decent tactic for reducing levels of online piracy.

As much previously reported, so called web-blocking is an increasingly favoured approach of both the music and movie industries in the long-running battle against piracy online. Internet service providers are pressured, usually by court injunction, to block access to websites that primarily exist to encourage or enable copyright infringement. In countries where the injunctions have been easy to secure, the content industries have sought to block numerous piracy services.

The effectiveness of the blockades is often called into question, because proxy sites soon spring up that are easily found via a Google search, and which enable users to access blocked services. Though rights owners insist that the blocks do have an impact, even though they concede things would be much more effective if the big search engines also removed offending sites and resulting proxies from their search results.

But even with the easy-to-find proxies the MPAA claims, according to Torrentfreak, that UK web-blocking is delivering impressive results. A leaked report apparently alludes to internal MPAA research, adding that this “research of the effectiveness of site blocking orders in the UK found that visits to infringing sites blocked declined by more than 90% in total during the measurement period or by 74.5% when proxy sites are included”.

As Torrentfreak says, without knowing more about the methodology of the research it’s hard to assess how reliable that claim is. The Pirate Bay has claimed its traffic went up after the site’s official domain was blocked in the UK. And while some other services have gone offline after being blocked, which could skew the results overall, web-blocking critics are likely to be suspicious of the MPAA’s very impressive sounding stats.

The research is referenced in a report being prepared for the Australian government which, as previously reported, is currently considering new anti-piracy measures, including web-blocking. Though Torrentfreak wonders if the fact the MPAA is conducting research of this kind suggests that it is planning on pushing for web-blocking in the US once again.

Web-blocks were big features of the SOPA and PIPA proposals that went before US Congress back in 2011/2, though both fell apart in face of strong opposition from the tech sector. Though that was before web-blocking had become common practice in some European countries, not least the UK.