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New Zealand ISPs hit out at Sky’s web-blocking bid

By | Published on Thursday 30 November 2017


Sky TV is trying to bring the web-block party to New Zealand and, as is the norm, the internet service providers are stamping their feet about it. One has called the move to force ISPs in New Zealand to block their customers from accessing various piracy sites “dinosaur behaviour” and “something you would expect in North Korea”.

It’s actually something you’d expect in a plethora of countries, not least the UK, where web-blocking has been available as an anti-piracy tactic for sometime and has been prolifically used by the music and movie industries. It’s by no means a perfect tactic – it’s relatively easy to circumvent the blockades – but copyright owners insist it’s a useful system nevertheless in their wider campaign to limit online piracy.

Whenever web-blocking is first proposed in a country, the ISP’s usually throw a tantrum. Though, interestingly, once the web-blocks are underway, most net firms fall in line and start implementing any court-ordered blockades without too much moaning. Indeed, some have gone as far as bigging up web-blocking as a preferred anti-piracy manoeuvre, providing there is some judicial over-sight when blocks are put in place.

Howver, ISP Vocus is a long way off acceptance, let alone endorsement. Following the news that Sky recently filed legal papers with the high court in New Zealand seeking web-blocks against a number of as-yet-unnamed piracy sites, the ISP hit out.

According to Torrentfreak, the firm’s Taryn Hamilton said: “Sky’s call that sites be blacklisted on their say so is dinosaur behaviour, something you would expect in North Korea, not in New Zealand. It isn’t our job to police the internet and it sure as hell isn’t Sky’s either, all sites should be equal and open”.

Meanwhile InternetNZ – a digital rights lobbying group that also administrates the .nz domain – likewise hit out at the plans. It stated yesterday: “InternetNZ is surprised by today’s announcement of court action from Sky TV to a range of ISPs, asking them to block New Zealand internet users from accessing certain websites”.

The organisation’s boss Jordan Cartera added: “This is an extreme step in response to a problem of limited scale, and one that is unlikely to achieve the stated goal. Site blocking works against the very nature of the internet”.

Questioning the effectiveness of web-blocking, Cartera went on: “Site blocking is very easily evaded by people with the right skills or tools. Those who are deliberate pirates will be able to get around site blocking without difficulty. If blocking is ordered, it risks driving content piracy further underground, with the help of easily-deployed and common internet tools”.

On the legalities of web-blocking in the country, the InternetNZ chief said he was investigating. He explained: “InternetNZ is taking legal advice on this matter, to understand better whether the court has the ability to order such a block. Parliament has never signalled an intention to allow this when it has considered these matters, and if site blocking was to be introduced it should only happen after a broad public debate establishes it is unavoidable, and a parliamentary mandate is given”.

For its part, Sky says over 40 countries worldwide now allow web-blocking, adding: “Pirate sites like Pirate Bay make no contribution to the development of content, but rather just steal it. We’re doing this because illegal streaming and content piracy is a major threat to the entertainment, creative and sporting industries in New Zealand and abroad. With piracy, not only is the sport and entertainment content that we love at risk, but so are the livelihoods of the thousands of people employed by these industries”.