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Sky and Other UK ISPs Finally Fix Crystal Palace FC and RadioTimes Block

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 (7:37 am) - Score 4,786
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Customers of Sky Broadband (plus those of many other UK ISPs) should now be able to access the Radio Times, Crystal Palace FC, Taylor Swift and over 100 other legitimate websites after providers resolved a problem in their court-ordered internet censorship system that occurred because Rights Holders failed to check the data.

Last Saturday we reported that EZTV, which is one of many internet piracy sites that ISPs in the United Kingdom are now required to block via court order, had successfully poisoned their own Domain Name Server (DNS) records with the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of legitimate websites like Facebook and TorrentFreak (here). The problem was eventually resolved but not before it caused huge embarrassment for Sky Broadband, Virgin Media and a few other ISPs.

Unfortunately lighting apparently does strike twice because on Monday we updated our article with word that over 100 other legitimate websites, including major webpages like the Radio Times and Crystal Palace Football Club, had suddenly become semi-inaccessible across Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, BT and a few other ISPs. It’s important to stress that this was technically separate from the EZTV incident (albeit related to a similar issue).

Needless to say that the Radio Times was furious and an article on the BBC quotes them as saying, “It’s outrageous that our website has been suddenly switched off and our users wrongly informed that it’s to protect against copyright infringement“. The Radio Times then directly blamed the Premier League for this. The PL has forced several sites to be banned via court orders, including First Row Sports.

The problem was the IP address (96.45.82.196) and URL that the Premier League wanted blocking just so happened to also be connected with many other websites, which is a normal practice on the internet and is also one of the concerns that was raised in an Ofcom commissioned report (here).

In fairness it wasn’t just a simple matter of the IP address being shared because many people soon noticed that the sites only became inaccessible when their addresses were typed without “www.” being in front.

Lee Maguire, The Open Rights Group (ORG), explained:

Many third-party load balanced systems, for example those using Amazon’s AWS infrastructure, are enabled by pointing CNAME records at names controlled by those third-party systems. For example www.example.com may be pointed at loadbalancer.example.net.

However, “example.com” usually cannot be directly given a CNAME record (CNAME records cannot be mixed with the other record types needed such as those pointing to nameservers and mailservers). A common approach is to point “example.com” to a server that merely redirects all requests to “www.example.com”.

In this specific case an A record used for “http-redirection-a.dnsmadeeasy.com”, that has been blocked by the ISPs – probably a court-order-blocked site is also using the service – making numerous sites unavailable for any request made without the “www” prefix.”

In other words the information supplied by the Premier League had not been properly checked, which is something that could become more common as greater automation is added into the process, and this resulted in a mass of legal sites throwing out copyright censorship warnings to anybody whom attempted to access them without using “www.” first.

The situation proceeded for several days, lasting right up until yesterday afternoon for some, before mounting publicity resulted in some ISPs taking action (usually by removing the erroneous URL/IP like Virgin Media did).

A Sky Broadband spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

Sky only ever blocks websites in line with court orders. However, if we believe a particular website to covered by a court order in error, we will raise this with the rights owner and re-enable access, as we have done in the case of the Front Row Sports order.

Separately, some websites may be inadvertently blocked as a result of avoidance actions taken by operators impacted by court orders, as we saw with EZTV. We have an established process in place which monitors this type of disruptive behaviour, and when we discover it, we take the necessary steps to remove any unintended blocks.”

Meanwhile the Premier League have said that they’re “looking into it as a matter of urgency“, although they also added that “any issues [ISPs] have in implementing the block must be raised with the Premier League before taking any further action“; hardly an ideal process if hundreds of legal websites are being affected and losing business!

We suspect that this won’t be the last news article we have to write about wrongful censorship and internet filtering fails.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. RevK

    Can Sky customers claim damages from the rights holders?

  2. RevK

    Can the sites sue the rights holders for damages?

    • Mel

      I still wonder if sites such as cpfc.co.uk that the copyright infringement notice was displayed for could potentially have a case against Sky, as the block page names the site, and states “BSkyB is required by Court order to prevent access to this site in order to help protect against copyright infringement”.

      If the court order requires them to block the IP address, then the block page should state only the IP address and not the domain name of the fully legitimate site you were trying to visit. Or if it required sky to block a specific domain, it should have stated that URL, and given users an easy way to report errors.

    • Mel

      == Meant to say case against sky for libel ==

  3. RevK

    “Sky only ever blocks websites in line with court orders.” is surely a lie? Or have I misunderstood. Don’t Sky block sites on IWF list that have no court orders? So is it a lie? Can someone ask that spokesman if that was a lie? I would be interested to know their response to such a question.

  4. demon

    wish they would shut the fcuk up blocking everything fcuking tits

  5. sky

    sky only blocks sites when court orders bet they do they want to tell the courts to feck off .

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