In countries all around the world the music and movies industries are increasingly looking to web blockades to solve their piracy woes. The belief is that by blocking file-sharing sites at the ISP level, subscribers will eventually get frustrated enough to start testing out some of the legal offerings available.
Ireland was one of the first countries in the world to have an ISP blockade of The Pirate Bay. ISP Eircom backed out of a court battle with the major labels represented by the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) and in 2009 blocked the site voluntarily.
Progress on having The Pirate Bay blocked by other ISPs then slowed due to legal issues, but once Ireland’s signing into law of the European Union (Copyright and Related Rights) Regulations 2012 had been completed, the ball was rolling again.
Following an action initiated by EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal against the ISPs UPC, Imagine, Vodafone, Digiweb, Hutchison 3G and Telefonica O2, in June 2013 the High Court gave the service providers just 30 days to block The Pirate Bay.
Now, just as expected, the labels are back. In their crosshairs this time is KickassTorrents, the second most popular torrent site in the world. The early signs suggest that achieving success will be a walk in the park.
On Monday, Sony, Universal and Warner Music will head off to the High Court with demands that Ireland’s largest ISPs – Vodafone, UPC, O2, Digiweb and Hutchison 3G Ireland – block subscriber access to the site.
Speaking with the Irish Times, UPC – one of the few ISPs worldwide to aggressively contest blocking demands – confirmed it had been served with legal papers.
“UPC declined Irma’s request in pre-litigation correspondence to voluntarily block Kat. Our position is that ISPs should not, on a voluntary basis, choose what can or should be consumed by internet users. Such matters are for the government or the courts to decide,” the ISP said.
However, not all ISPs are taking such a strong line. Imagine, an ISP that was listed among the defendants in The Pirate Bay case, says it has informed the labels it will block KickassTorrents voluntarily if the defending ISPs lose their case.
IRMA chief Dick Doyle also confirmed that his group had reached agreements with several other ISPs in Ireland to block Kickass, even though they are not involved in the case. Aside from Eircom’s position against The Pirate Bay, this appears to be the first time that ISPs have agreed in bulk to block a file-sharing site voluntarily.
Success in this case for the labels, which appears to be almost guaranteed, will open up the possibility of even wider blockades in Ireland such as the ones across the water in the UK. And with ISPs now offering voluntary blocking if the conditions are right, the way seems smoother than ever before.