Earlier this year, nine recording labels including EMI, Polydor, Sony, Virgin and Warner successfully argued that The Pirate Bay infringes their copyrights. Several ISPs including Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media should implement a blockade under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, the labels demanded.
Having earlier deemed the site to be illegal, at the end of April the High Court ordered The Pirate Bay to be blocked. The decision followed similar rulings in Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Finland.
On the back of this success it was a matter of when, not if, the labels came back for more. We didn’t have to wait long for the first signs.
In July, music licensing group PPL quietly polled its members to discover if they had licensed any of their music to torrent sites such as Extratorrent, Demonoid, Kickass Torrents, H33T, Torrent Reactor and Fenopy.
And now, in a move that will surprise no one, the record labels are indeed back with further censorship demands.
According to the BBC, last week six ISPs namely BT, Sky, Virgin Media, O2, EE and TalkTalk, received letters from the BPI asking them to block three leading torrent sites – Kickass Torrents, H33t and Fenopy.
“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,” a BPI spokesman told the BBC.
As expected, the ISPs have all refused to voluntarily comply with the BPI’s request – at least in the absence of a court ruling. It is important for the providers to show their customers that they have been forced to block sites, rather than simply caving in to the demands of private companies. In reality, and following the case against The Pirate Bay, none are putting up a fight.
“It looks like web blocking is now a reality in the UK – the BPI have found a way to censor sites they don’t like,” a spokesman for the UK Pirate Party told TorrentFreak.
“The excuse is piracy, which totally disregards the legitimate uses of torrent sites, and conveniently neglects to mention that they are a major platform for independent musicians. Essentially, it’s the classic behavior of monopolistic corporate bullies who want to stamp out competition.”
“The saddest thing is that they are just cutting off their noses to spite their own faces – just last week we had another study proving that users of file-sharing networks spend more money on music than non-sharers. So here’s yet another self-defeating attempt at censorship, which will not only be ineffective but actually antagonize music lovers and turn them further against the major labels.”
The BPI hopes that the High Court will order blockades against Kickass Torrents, H33t and Fenopy in time for Christmas. This is an extremely tight deadline but given that the process to have sites blocked has been tested comprehensively twice now – once against The Pirate Bay and earlier against Usenet indexing site Newzbin2 – it may just be possible.
Whether it will have any effect though remains to be seen. Dutch ISPs monitoring the block of The Pirate Bay in the Netherlands found that blocking the site was a futile activity. Nevertheless, the burning question now is what will happen when the blocks put in place.
When The Pirate Bay was blocked the Internet community rallied round in a big way, setting up dozens of proxy sites and ensuring that file-sharers knew how to circumvent the blockage. But The Pirate Bay has a significant profile that encourages a kick back against efforts to bring it down – will the response be the same for these other sites? The next few weeks will be telling.