Website blocking has become one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries in recent years.
The UK is a leader on this front, with the High Court ordering local ISPs to block access to many popular file-sharing sites.
Over time the number of blocked URLs has expanded to well over 1,000, with popular torrent, streaming, and direct download sites being the main targets.
While research has shown that this approach is somewhat effective, there are plenty of options through which people can circumvent the blockades, including many reverse proxies.
Similarly, pirate sites can simply switch to a new domain name to evade the court orders, and new sites are allowed to flourish in the shadow of those that are no longer available.
This week we decided to take a look at the current pirate site landscape in the UK, with some surprising results.
As it turns out, the list of top ten most-used pirate sites in the UK includes several sites that are on the ISPs blockists. In some cases the sites remain accessible on their original domain names, via the HTTPS URL.
As we’ve highlighted before, not all ISPs are able to block HTTPS traffic, which allows their subscribers to load The Pirate Bay and other blocked sites just fine.
There are also websites that intentionally help visitors to circumvent the blocks by registering new domain names. Unblocked.vip, for example, has cycled through various domain names in order to remain available.
And then there are the newcomers. 123movies.to deserves a mention here as it’s currently the most-used pirate site in the UK. With an Alexa rank of 81, it’s even one of the 100 most-visited sites in the country.
Below we’ve made an overview of the ten most-used pirate sites in the UK. Several of these are on the blocklist, with a current or previous URL. This suggests that the blocking efforts are not as effective as rightsholders would like them to be.
The conclusion is also in line with research from Italy, which suggested that site-blocking can actually be counterproductive. Similarly, a UK report revealed that it significantly boosts traffic to non-blocked websites.
While the entertainment industries still see enough value in website blocking, it’s clear that it’s not the silver bullet that will defeat piracy. And at a rate of £14,000 per site, it comes at a high cost.
The label “pirate site” applies to sites that have been classified as such by entertainment industry groups. It’s worth noting that at the time of writing, several of the sites (*) had already started redirecting to new domain names. Putlocker.is is currently down.
|Site||Alexa rank||Type||Original site blocked?|
|Unblocked.vip (*)||127||Proxy links||Yes|
|Pirateproxy.red (*)||183||Torrents (proxy)||Yes|