The concept of whole-site blocking has been on the entertainment industries’ agenda for a decade now, after Russia’s AllofMP3 and then The Pirate Bay were blocked in Denmark. Since then, momentum has been building.
Blocking is now underway in multiple countries around the world, especially in Europe where the practice is widespread. The music and movie industries say blocking is effective but they also know that pushing blockades through the courts can be expensive and controversial.
In Portugal, however, things are much more streamlined. Thanks to an agreement forged between rightsholders, ISPs and the government in 2015, it is now a formality to have sites blocked in the country. If the parties agree that a site is operating illegally it can be blocked, all without stepping into a courtroom.
No surprise then that copyright holders have been taking full advantage of the system. After blocking The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents, ExtraTorrent, Isohunt, RARBG, and dozens of others in October 2015, another 40 sites were added the month after. By April 2016 at least 330 sites had been blocked and every month the same process repeats.
The smoothness of the non-adversarial system appears to have impressed the MPAA. According to a SapoTek report, the Hollywood group has been presenting the Portuguese model to the Spanish Senate and is now planning to do the same before the French Senate.
FEVIP, the Portuguese Association of Audiovisual Works Defense, said in a statement that an MPAA-sponsored study between September 2015 and February 2016 found that out of 250 unauthorized sites, 22 had already been voluntarily blocked by the program.
Paulo Santos, executive director of FEVIP, said that Portugal’s program is now receiving international recognition for its streamlined processes. Noting a “special efficiency” in relation to results versus costs of litigation, Santos said that the program has resulted in a decrease in visits to pirate sites of “at least 60%”.
FEVIP say that the reductions are similar to those achieved by blocking in the UK, where the group claims pirate sites typically lose 75% of their local users within three months of a blockade being put in place.
To date, hundreds of sites and thousands of URLs have been blocked in both countries, yet piracy somehow persists. Clearly, a 60% or even 75% reduction in traffic to domains is not translating to a similar drop in piracy rates or indeed, increases in sales.
However, it seems likely that the MPAA and others will continue their blocking efforts regardless. Voluntary solutions are clearly in favor, since they receive less judicial scrutiny after implementation and cost far less to run on an ongoing basis. Spain and France next? Only time will tell.