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Whack a Mole Game Continues as UK ISP Clamps Down on Pirate Proxies

Monday, June 3rd, 2013 (2:59 pm) - Score 1,659

Sky Broadband (BSkyB) appears to have become the first major UK ISP to extend its court ordered censorship of specific websites that facilitate internet piracy (e.g. The Pirate Bay) to include a wide range of proxy servers, which allows users to bypass such blocks without needing to use a VPN or other solution.

Crucially many of the original blocking injunctions required ISPs to censor access to the piracy sites including any related “domain[s] and sub-domains and any other IP address or url whose sole or predominant purpose is to enable or facilitate access to [the piracy website]“. In other words if a proxy server has clearly been setup with the sole intent of redirecting users to a piracy site then this too could conceivably be considered within the scope of such court orders.

In theory general proxy servers, such as those used by Google, ISPs, Opera, network admins and many other groups for general purposes (note: some of these can still, albeit unwittingly, allow access to banned sites), would thus not appear to fall within the scope of such rulings. However this remains somewhat of a grey area.

It would however be highly controversial for a court to ban proxy servers in their entirety because, much as we’ve said before, these are often vital tools of core functionality that have been around since the early days. But much like a car, they can also be used for bad purposes, which is one reason why the P2P file sharing protocol can’t be completely banned (i.e. many legitimate services use P2P).

Never the less the suggestion on TorrentFreak today is that Sky Broadband are now pursuing proxy sites, albeit so far only those that seem to have a specific focus on piracy related traffic. A spokesperson for the ISP appeared unable to answer our questions and simply redirected us to their “approach to protecting copyright” page instead (here). It’s claimed that Sky’s system can also automatically adapt when a website changes its IP address, which use to be one way of hampering such restrictions.

Sky’s Approach to Protecting Copyright

Increasingly content owners are turning to the courts to present evidence of copyright infringement by websites that offer content illegally to users. When they do so, and the court agrees that copyright infringement has occurred, the content owners can seek a court order which compels the internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to those sites over their broadband networks.

To date Sky has received court orders to block the following websites that were found to have breached copyright laws:

•Download4all, which Sky blocked on 20 May 2013
•Movie2K, which Sky blocked on 20 May 2013
•Kick Ass Torrents (KAT), which Sky blocked on 21 March 2013
•Fenopy, which Sky blocked on 21 March 2013
•H33T, which Sky blocked on 21 March 2013
•The Pirate Bay, which Sky blocked on 30 May 2012

Last year the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), a trade body for the UK music industry, used legal pressure to force the minor political Pirate Party to close an internet proxy server that allowed access to the banned Pirate Bay (TPB) website (here).

Clearly the fight is now moving to target at least some of the methods most commonly used to circumvent such blocks. We expect more ISPs to follow suit.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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