PIPCU starts to “come down hard” on proxies that offer access to websites blocked in the UK, such as The Pirate Bay
City of London Police have arrested a 20-year old Nottingham resident who is suspected of running proxy services that allowed UK-based Internet users to circumvent the country-wide blockade of popular torrent websites.
The operation was carried out by the Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and supported by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) – a UK industry body that protects its members’ intellectual property. The man was later released on bail, pending a further investigation.
It will be interesting to see whether the arrest results in prosecution – after all, proxy servers simply serve as gateways and don’t offer any illegal content themselves.
In April 2012, the High Court ordered five major British ISPs to block access to the Pirate Bay on the grounds that it facilitated copyright infringement. The decision came after the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents music copyright holders, failed to negotiate voluntary blocking.
In the following months, copyright protection agencies used this precedent to obtain dozens of court orders blocking file-sharing, cloud storage and video streaming websites.
In September 2013, The UK government launched a new organisation – PIPCU – to protect intellectual property and fight copyright infringement. Several months later, the unit was criticised for forcing domain name registrars to close websites suspected of copyright infringement without a court order or any legal justification to do so.
Soon after the Pirate Bay ban came into force, one of the major ISPs reported that it failed to stop the flow of traffic to the pirate websites, thanks to a multitude of proxy services that instantly sprung up all over the world. Now, it looks like PIPCU has begun to tackle this particular problem.
On Thursday, the unit arrested a man who is believed to have been running proxies for 36 of the websites subject to legal blocking orders. The domain names of these sites have been “voluntarily” handed to police and the related web pages now show a police warning banner.
“This week’s operation highlights how PIPCU, working in partnership with the creative and advertising industries is targeting every aspect of how copyrighting material is illegally being made available to internet users,” commented head of PIPCU, detective chief inspector Andy Fyfe. “We will come down hard on people believed to be committing or deliberately facilitating such offences.”
It’s not clear how PIPCU is planning to tackle the overwhelming majority of proxies that are hosted abroad.
The arrest was made as part of Operation Creative – the very same effort which saw at least 40 websites closed down without a court order in 2013, and later caused something of a revolt among domain name registrars, with ICANN having to step in and clarify its guidelines on the topic.
PIPCU announced last week it had started placing banner advertisements on websites believed to be offering copyrighted content illegally. The same week, the unit closed down several proxy resources, although it told the BBC these were not connected to the latest arrest.
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