While the practice of domain blocking remains out of reach for rightsholders in the United States, over in Europe it is gathering pace.
The music and movie industries have honed their skills particularly well in the United Kingdom, where the main ISPs now block several leading torrent and movie streaming sites.
To combat this censorship so-called ‘proxy sites’ have been cropping up thick and fast. To gain access to The Pirate Bay or KickassTorrents (the two most-blocked domains) all one has to do is visit a proxy site instead and the real domain will bounce into view.
Finding a proxy for The Pirate Bay is incredibly simple since there are dozens of them, but in addition to KickassTorrents proxies being generally more thin on the ground, a new problem is raising its head which could restrict them even further.
In order to keep their operations going, proxy operators often display advertising on their services. Sometimes this is in addition to the advertising already showing on KickassTorrents but sometimes ads are replaced. This has caused friction between Kickass and some proxies.
A few days ago TorrentFreak spoke with the admin of KickassProxy about a problem he’d been experiencing.
“Earlier this week [my proxy] dropped offline and my server was unable to connect with KAT. I figured it was something I’d broken so I moved everything onto another server which worked for a bit until the same thing happened. I thought it seemed a bit suspicious and not just coincidental so I pm’ed KAT staff asking if I was being blocked,” the admin explained.
Kickass staff later confirmed that the site had indeed been blocked because the KickassProxy admin had allegedly replaced Kickass advertising with his own.
“Whilst I did add my own banner ads in place of KAT’s, they aren’t quite replaced as KAT’s banner ads just don’t appear on my proxy or any other proxy (as far as I know). All of KAT’s other ads remain and I offered to remove mine but was told that they’d made their decision and wouldn’t change.”
The operator of another proxy who spoke on condition of anonymity told TorrentFreak that they suspected their IP addresses had also been blocked but the problem with disappearing ads could be down to the way the Kickass site is setup.
“We would happily display their ads if they worked in addition to a few of ours to help with costs. KAT’s ads are served from a.kickass.to which as you may guess, is blocked,” he explained.
Going into some detail, the proxy operator then explained that Kickass (for unknown reasons, but possibly to save bandwidth) set their site up in a way that makes it extremely difficult to get proxies working. We didn’t get a comment on that specifically from Kickass, but they did give us an explanation as to why some proxies had stopped working.
“We have banned some proxies which were replacing ads. The only reason is that we don’t want to lose our traffic because of proxies which are not even showing our ads while they are providing additional load on our servers,” the Kickass operators explained.
So what we have here is Kickass being blocked in the UK in the first instance due to its claimed disruptive effect on the revenue models of the entertainment industries, followed by proxies being blocked for having a similar effect on the revenues Kickass. Hmmmm.
Additionally, Kickass also told us that they blocked some proxy sites for doing too well in search engine results.
“Another reason [for banning proxies] is that for some queries in Google, proxy’s pages were placed even higher than [Kickass' results],” the site explained.
Quite why proxy sites have been outgunning the official domain in Google’s results is uncertain, but the search engine may well be down-ranking ‘pirate site’ domains as it promised the music industry it would.
But despite KAT’s approach to some proxies, it is possible for them to work with others.
Drastik, the admin of PirateProxy.net, the world’s largest Pirate Bay proxy, told TorrentFreak that he had previously spoken with the KAT admins about ads and had reached an agreement.
“When my KAT proxy (katproxy.com) started getting a lot of traffic, I contacted a KAT admin and asked if I could add one banner advertisement to cover my server costs. They said that it was okay and I added that one ad. My proxy has been running fine,” he explained.
Finally, it seems that KAT has a plan to help the site remain accessible in the future, even without the assistance of third-party proxies.
“In the nearest future a number of official proxies will be started as well so KAT definitely will be available through its official proxies even in case of any issues with our main domain,” KAT concludes.