Brits Demand Pirate Bay Blockade
British lobby group BPI wants one of the UK's largest Internet service providers, BT, to ban its customers from accessing file-sharing website The Pirate Bay. The site's been blocked in a handful of countries before, yet it lives on as one of the Web's most popular destinations for those looking to share copyrighted material online.
A coalition of film studios, record labels and media entities led by the UK record industry lobby group BPI recently sent a letter to British Internet service provider (ISP) BT demanding that the company block access to The Pirate Bay website.
The group said that if BT doesn't act within two weeks, the matter will proceed to court. BPI is banking on the recent UK court decision regarding Newzbin2, a British file-sharing website recently blocked by court order.
It was the first British website to be blocked for reasons besides carrying offensive material such as child abuse images, and BPI is hoping to capitalize on that decision and get the courts to again demand blocking The Pirate Bay, which provides visitors with files that can be used to share media and data online, including copyrighted works.
It's not the first time The Pirate Bay has faced such demands since its start eight years ago by a Swedish anti-copyright organization. Lawsuits and raids have led to brief downtimes for the website, as well as restrictions, fines and prison sentences for its creators. The site is blocked in Denmark, Finland and Italy.
BT indicated to The Guardian that it would await a court order before blocking any Web content. The Pirate Bay, BPI and BP did not respond to the E-Commerce Times' requests for further comment.
"The effects of illegal downloading and piracy have certainly trickled down to the ranks of the artists and creative community," entertainment lawyer John J. Tormey III told the E-Commerce Times. The music industry has been transformed, the TV industry has been transformed, the book publishing industry has been transformed, and the film industry has been transformed."
The producers of copyrighted media whose works are freely traded online have for years said their businesses are directly hurt by piracy. However, as industries start to blend together -- for example, a computer company like Apple could make deals to become a content provider -- there are many more organizations with interests in protecting copyrights.
"If the courts don't support the business of copyright, then we're pulling the rug out from under the ones who are doing it to survive, and it disincentivizes creation. From a global perspective, it really puts you in a less competitive place," said Tormey.
No Going Back
Illegal downloads, illicit BitTorrent activity, unauthorized streams and other pirating methods have become so rampant it may be practically impossible for the film, music and television industries to eliminate the phenomenon entirely. If the BPI can get The Pirate Bay blocked, as it has been in other countries, there will likely still be other sites and methods for freely obtaining and sharing copyrighted material.
Since the legal system has to straddle the line between protecting freedom of speech and protecting enterprise, coupled with a technological scene that's advancing quickly, legislation has had a difficult time keeping up.
In order for copyrights to maintain their importance, then, outdated legislation might not be the answer, though it's possible for protections to catch up to technology.
"Carriers are essentially saying they can't control what goes through the door, but the technology exists. The U.S. government has the ability to pick up on certain key words as a weapon against terrorism, so the intelligent powers know that a macro can be set up to pick up material that is harmful, so the technology exists of common carriers to pick up certain file-sharing or illegal activity," said Tormey.
Some record labels or pro-copyright groups also focus on education campaigns to counter the inability of legislation to accomplish widespread bans on illegal file-sharing.
"I'm not sure if legislation can fix the system, but I think education can," entertainment lawyer Kathleen Conkey told the E-Commerce Times. "We have to do a better job of educating everyone about the importance of copyright because the kind of legislation we see coming out ends up being clumsy and overreaching, putting us in a situation where we end up clamping down on free speech instead of keeping the lines open."