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BPI Wants More File-Sharing Sites Blocked

Music piracy © alexskopje Shutterstock 2012
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Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents could be gone before Christmas

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the trade association for UK’s music industry, has requested six major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block three more websites suspected of illegally distributing music.

BPI said it wants to make popular file-sharing sites Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents inaccessible to UK users before Christmas.

Earlier this year, the organisation tried to negotiate voluntary blocking of the infamous Pirate Bay website. When that failed, it turned to the High Court, which ordered ISPs to block access to the peer-to-peer sharing platform, on the grounds that it facilitated copyright infringement.

The second crusade

In May, Virgin Media became the first provider to enact the court order and block access to The Pirate Bay. Orange was next to shut off the access, followed by Sky, TalkTalk, and finally, BT.

Piracy, downloading © eldeiv Shutterstock 2012In the weeks leading up to the restrictions being placed, the amount of traffic to the site actually increased, possibly fuelled by media exposure. The Pirate Bay administration even jokingly referred to it as “free advertising”.

Immediately after the ban was imposed, the volume of peer-to-peer traffic on the UK networks dropped 11 percent, while the users were figuring out how to circumvent it. A number of specifically designed websites soon popped up, offering free access to the Pirate Bay through proxy servers. The Pirate Party UK was one of the organisations running such services.

Two months later, the amount of peer-to-peer traffic was back to its pre-ban levels. Even though the blocking was ineffective, BPI did not stop its crusade against piracy. “Like The Pirate Bay, these websites are profiting illegally from distributing music that isn’t theirs, without permission and without paying a penny to the musicians, writers and producers who created it,” a spokesman for the BPI told the BBC.

ISPs have said they will comply with the new request, as long as it is accompanied by a court order. This means that BPI has once again failed to convince these companies to block websites voluntarily.

BPI is hoping that because a similar case has already been through the courts in the past, all three sites will be blocked before Christmas.

Torrent sites have many legitimate uses, such as sharing of free software and non-copyrighted material, and increasingly serve as a distribution platform for music created by independent artists.

“Web blocking is an extreme response. The orders are often indefinite and open ended, and will be blocking legitimate uses. The BPI and the courts need to slow down and be very careful about this approach,” Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told TechWeekEurope.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), digital album sales in the UK were up 27 percent in 2011, a far cry from the ‘crisis’ described by the BPI. “Digital music is going through a period of real growth because it is trying to innovate: this is a much more effective approach than copyright crackdowns,” added Killock.

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