Broadband providers block 21 piracy sites
THE British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has obtained a high court order blocking 21 of the UK's most popular filesharing websites.
A growing number of sites are now blocked by the UK's biggest ISPs - Sky, BT, EE, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and O2 - in a bid to prevent piracy.
The latest court order affects popular mp3 search engines, BitTorrent directories and search engines that find content hosted on other file hosting services.
Here's the full list of newly banned sites:
The BPI has been engaged in a pirate-themed game of whac-a-mole for many years, obtaining court orders to shut down or block infringing websites, only to see them pop-up elsewhere.
A blocking success?
Filesharing sites like The Pirate Bay have long argued that site blocking only causes a Streisand effect, publicising sites and encouraging internet users to seek them out.
But the BPI says that blocking works and, after a Streisand 'bump' has died down, that seems to be true even in the case of The Pirate Bay, the world's most famous piracy site.
According to Google Trends, searches for the term "the pirate bay" have been on a downward trend since the site was blocked in April 2012.
Trends: As interest in the 'the pirate bay' (red) has fallen, searches for ways round the block 'pirate proxy' (blue) have risen.
But it isn't all party poppers and cake for the record industry.
The same chart also shows that searches for "pirate proxy", a simple method of circumventing the block, have been growing ever since the block was introduced.
Blocking the wrong people
As the block is put in place, legitimate sites will be crossing their fingers that they aren't caught in the crossfire.
In August this year, the Radio Times website was taken offline by some ISPs as it happened to share a redirection service with one website - Firstrow Sports - that the English Premier League had ordered ISPs to block.
Neither the Premier League or ISPs checked whether other sites would be affected before applying the court order, critics noted.
"The opaque approach to website blocking by ISPs, and the apparent lack of oversight, has the potential to be hugely damaging to the internet," the Open Rights Group commented at the time.
Next up: blocking Google
Critics of ISP level blocking are unlikely to be crazy about rights holders' next plan: blocking the search engines.
Record industry groups like the BPI have long bemoaned Google's stance toward the appearance of sites that host copyrighted material in its search results.
In his AGM speech, BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor argued that legality should become a search engine ranking factor.
"If Google is clever enough to teach a computer to think," he said, "... it's clever enough, when it has been told more than 150,000 times that The Pirate Bay is illegal, to rank that site below Amazon and iTunes when consumers search for music."
Google has already made attempts to suppress results from websites such as The Pirate Bay and also takes down offending links identified and submitted by rights holders but doesn't block searches listing proxies for websites that have been blocked.
When access to websites "blocked" by ISPs remains so easy, Taylor's ambition seems far from being realised.
A change of tactics
While the approach taken by the music industry has been much the same for the past 15 years, some private companies are being more creative.
At the end of October, the owner of a website called UploaderTalk, which is, according to their slogan, "where real uploaders meet", revealed himself to be part of a year-long "honeytrap", set up to lure in and collect data about users uploading copyrighted content.
The website had been "a sounding board, proof-of-concept" set up to harvest the details of professional pirates, he said.
After the owners' announcement, the site was purchased by Nuke Piracy, a US firm that claims to make money by serving anti-piracy actions against users it claims have been sharing copyrighted material, or, since the company was only registered this month, presumably that's what they plan to do.