UK Court Orders Blockade on Pirate Bay
UK Internet users may soon find it impossible -- or at least a little more difficult -- to access The Pirate Bay. The England and Wales High Court has ordered UK ISPs to block access to the site, which provides links that can be used to copy and share media like movies and music. However, there exist more sites just like The Pirate Bay, and the ban can be worked around.
May 1, 2012 10:55 AM PT
The England and Wales High Court has ordered that Internet service providers in the UK must block access to The Pirate Bay.
The High Court ruled in February that the site and its users were in violation of copyright law and followed with the court order Monday commanding ISPs to restrict access to the site.
Major British ISPs Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media agreed to block the Swedish site, which facilitates the sharing of media over BitTorrent technology. A sixth ISP named in the suit, BT, said it will decide whether or not it will block The Pirate Bay in a few weeks.
Virgin Media told the BBC that it would comply with the court order, but it also stressed the need for a uniform policy on legal content across the Web to get consumers the content they desire.
For critics of The Pirate Bay and other file-sharing sites, the court decision was a bigger victory. BPI, a British recording label association, told the BBC that The Pirate Bay takes jobs and monetary gains away from British artists.
A World of Work-Arounds
The Pirate Bay didn't respond to our requests for comment on the case, but it did issue a blog post announcing the decision.
The Pirate Bay called the ban censorship. The site criticized western countries for vilifying censorship in Iran, Saudi Arabia and China while simultaneously engaging it in a different form in the UK. It warned that without action from angry Pirate Bay users, this type of legal action would happen again, and it encouraged users to write to their MPs and demand an appeal.
Additionally, the site offered ways users could get around the ban and still continue to access links to pirated music, movies and other digital content. The Pirate Bay suggested using a VPN service to be anonymous online or changing DNS settings with OpenDNS. As long as workarounds like this are possible, the ban will not be an effective end to piracy, Matthew Savare, counsel at Lowenstein Sandler PC, told the E-Commerce Times.
"Unfortunately, this law, like any law designed to stop piracy, will not stop it," he said.
The problem is too large-scale to monitor and enforce a complete end to piracy, said Savare. Instead, legal action is more a way of trying to take out some of the biggest offenders.
"People analogize stopping piracy to a game of whack-a-mole, and that's appropriate here," said Savare. "If you stop or slow down one site, another new one will pop up. Create a technology to combat illegal material, and the pirates will create a different means and method as a work-around."
The Pirate Bay has been the target of numerous court actions in various countries in the past. The Pirate Bay's four founders were found guilty promoting copyright infringement in 2009 in a Swedish court, and the site is blocked in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Italy and Finland.
It was the only site named in this particular action, but that doesn't mean similar legislation couldn't follow to other booming file-sharing sites, said Savare.
"The Pirate Bay has been in litigation for some time and has been the focus of attention for some time, but the framework for this law could be extended to other sites that traffic in pirated material," said Savare.
It might not be so easy for courts in the U.S. to take similar actions, though. While the Swedish site is also popular among stateside users, without legislation, U.S. courts have a tougher time cracking down on file-sharing and pirated content. Some antipiracy advocates attempted to pass such legislation with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), but public opposition was strong, and the bills were shelved earlier this year.
"By contrast to the UK, here in the U.S., it is less likely that we will see similar orders," Gordon P. Firemark, entertainment lawyer at the Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark, told the E-Commerce Times. "That's largely because of our First Amendment guarantees of free speech and press, which make it improper for a court or any government actor to impose a prior restraint."
Without government legislation in place, the duty falls on the private sector. Some private companies have taken up the role as regulator, said Savare.
"Increased industry self-regulation is much more likely than government-imposed rules at this point," he said.
The Pirate Bay did not respond to our request for further comment.