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Virgin Media Responds to Confusion After UK ISPs Block the PromoBay Site

Tuesday, Dec 4th, 2012 (8:29 am) - Score 1,385

Several of the country’s biggest broadband providers including BT, BE Broadband (O2), Virgin Media and others have been accused of blocking access to an allegedly legitimate website (PromoBay) as part of their wider court ordered crackdown on internet piracy site The Pirate Bay. But is it a case of mistaken identity or just a crafty TBP campaign.

The Pirate Bay was blocked earlier this year after a court order, which had been won by Rights Holders using Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, forced most of the country’s biggest internet providers to block their customers from accessing the site. The measure was easy to circumvent but it was none the less seen as a major win for Rights Holders in the long running battle against internet copyright infringement.

Sadly blanket website blocks can also catch legitimate content, which initially appears to be the case with The Promo Bay campaign. The Promo Bay used to reside under The Pirate Bay’s website (http://the********.se/promo) and was apparently designed to help promote the work of independent musicians and film creators (i.e. it never did anything unlawful apart from be associated with TBP). A related domain (PROMOBAY.ORG) was established for the campaign on 16th April 2012 and initially seems to have pulled content from the above url on TBP’s server.

Since then the campaign has grown and was recently taken over by an Australian entrepreneur called Will Dayble, whom setup his own site, content and server for The Promo Bay domain. This seems to have occurred at a time after the court order had already been issued, although Dayble does not appear to have been aware that the related domain was due to be blocked.

A VirginMedia Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk today:

Promobay.org is included on the list of URLs Virgin Media is required to block under UK law following the ruling of the High Court against the Pirate Bay. As a responsible ISP, Virgin Media complies with court orders addressed to the company but strongly believes compelling legal alternatives are needed to give consumers access to great content at the right price.”

It’s difficult to believe that Dayble wouldn’t have known about the potential problem given that the domain had previously been directly connected with TBP. It’s also interesting to note that not all ISPs appear to be blocking The Promo Bay correctly, with some blocks failing to function when “www.” is added in front of the domain name (a useful example of how ineffective such systems can really be); we believe that TalkTalk and Sky Broadband have this problem.

Never the less the situation does highlight one of the problems with overly broad blocking measures and their inability to adapt when situations change. A domain, IP address or otherwise may not always remain connected to an illegal site, which results in over-blocking, and even illegal sites can contain legal content.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, said:

Blocking of legitimate websites is unacceptable. The wide blocking order that the courts granted against the Pirate Bay made it likely that this could happen.

We have contacted the ISPs to ask why this block is in place and how it can be removed.”

As it stands The Promo Bay, for whatever reason, is not carrying any illegal content and has separated itself from TBP. As a result Dayble could be said to have a case against the use of such blocking measures, although so far he’s only launched an online petition to have the block removed. In reality a case like this really needs to be tested in the courts for it to have any lasting impact upon the wider issues at play.

Meanwhile there are already many other considerably better examples of legitimate websites that have been incorrectly blocked by overzealous ISP filtering systems.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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