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Government to Remove Courts from UK ISP Piracy Website Blocks

Monday, October 22nd, 2018 (1:33 pm) - Score 3,133
illegal uk internet downloading

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has today confirmed that they intend to pursue tentative plans to setup a new “administrative site blocking” process (as opposed to requiring a High Court injunction), which would require broadband ISPs to block customers from accessing websites that facilitate internet piracy.

At present the largest ISPs (e.g. BT, Virgin Media, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk) can only be forced, via a court order, to block websites if they are found to heavily facilitate internet copyright infringement (piracy), which is supported via Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. So far well over 100 piracy sites have been blocked as a result of this (including several thousand proxy sites and mirror domains).

The existing process can be both very expensive and time consuming for both Rights Holders and broadband providers, although ISPs did recently secure a useful ruling that indemnifies them against shouldering some of the costs for such blocking orders (here). At present this only applies to blocks that stem from the abuse of a Trade Mark.

Suffice to say that Rights Holders (e.g. BPI) have been pushing for the Government to develop a cheaper and easier approach, which was first hinted at in June 2018 (here). Today the Government published its response via a plan for tackling “illicit streaming” services and devices (e.g. Kodi boxes), which included proposals to explore a new administrative site blocking process that would do away with the need for court orders.

Sam Gyimah, UK Minister for Intellectual Property, said:

“Illegal streaming damages our creative industries. We have always been clear that media streaming devices used to access ‘paid for’ material for free are illegal. Recent prosecutions have shown that if caught, sellers of boxes adapted in this way face fines and a prison sentence.

Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are backing our booming creative industries which is why we are taking further steps to tackle this threat and in our recent creative industries sector deal outlined support to create the right conditions for them to continue to thrive.”

The Government confirmed today that it will:

* Consider the evidence for and potential impact of administrative site blocking (as opposed to requiring a High Court injunction in every case), as well as identifying the mechanisms through which administrative site blocking could be introduced.

* Work to identify disruptions that may be applied at other points in the supply chain, for example App developers, and further develop our understanding of the effect of new generation smart TVs on how this infringement occurs.

* Undertake research into consumer attitudes/motivations towards use of ISDs in order to develop more effective strategies for reducing levels of use.

* Deliver up to date training to Trading Standards officers via the established I.P in Practice courses.

We aren’t surprised by any of this, particularly in light of the current Government’s internet safety strategy and their move to ban commercial porn sites (i.e. those that fail to include an approved Age Verification system). The systems now exist to make site blocking much easier and if they can take the courts of out that process then it will also become a lot more affordable.

At this stage we’re not sure what “disruptions” might also be explored alongside this change, although conceivably it’s possible that they may target Proxy and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services. Such services are often used to circumvent blocking systems with ease, but crucially many people also use them for remote working / support systems, free speech and other legitimate purposes.

We’d hope that if the Government do take such a path (at present they haven’t specifically spelled out what they’ll do) then they act cautiously and only target those services that are dedicated toward supporting copyright infringement. For example, a web proxy that only takes users to a mirror of an offending site (i.e. they serve no other purpose than to facilitate piracy); existing court orders already extend to such proxies.

Meanwhile smaller ISPs will be concerned about whether the new approach is going to include them, not least due to the issue of cost. Admittedly the cost depends upon how deep in the network they’d want such blocking to go (e.g. a simple DNS based solution is cheaper than a complex network-level filter). People will of course always find ways around any of these restrictions.

One other concern is the issue of judgement and oversight. Somebody somewhere in the proposed “administrative” process is still going to have to review each site blocking request in order to prevent abuse, which is something that would also carry a cost (who pays?) and must be independent.

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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.
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23 Responses
  1. Moses

    This isn’t going to stop anyone from accessing those sites no matter what they do, tech and software are forever one or two steps ahead og ISPs and Governements, so no matter what fillm companies and music companies try to do in terms of mitigating piracy, it will not stop people from pirating.

    • Meadmodj

      You may not be able to stop it but you can make it harder. People swapping Firesticks in the barbers may continue but those selling or providing IPTV servers for gain will be closed down quick enough to make it unreliable for the average users. However it is no good only targeting the large ISPs though, it needs to be consistent and include VPN. AI in the future can monitor traffic types and identify suspect streams.
      The best approach by content providers though is to charge reasonably for their content. Moving F1 to pay only may get me on KODI.

    • JamesMJohnson

      @Meadmodj “However it is no good only targeting the large ISPs though, it needs to be consistent and include VPN. AI in the future can monitor traffic types and identify suspect streams”.
      Congratulations… your approach has just killed my site links between offices and tunnels to 3rd parties.
      Whilst VPNs are used for criminal intent by some they are used for secure connectivity over the internet by many businesses.
      Nothing is black and white and no solution is as easy as it seems.

    • Meadmodj

      @JamesMJohnson. I was not referring to legal use and meant public VPN provider not VPN.

    • JamesMJohnson

      Meadmodj But then how do you distinguish between legal and illegal as you can’t see the contents of the tunnel ?
      What’s to stop someone setting up a VPS outside of the UK and then setting up a VPN to that ?

    • Mike

      If they can get the courts out of the way they could quite easily target VPN’s and any other tunnel tools and get away with it.

    • Spurple

      JamesMJohnson, I can think of at least one rather draconian way.

      No serious business uses NordVPN for remote working. They pretty much all have vpn end/exit points within their well known domains. Quite simply vpn traffic to such well known domains will be allowed and the so-called privacy vpns would be blocked. The expectation here is that on a corporate VPN, your activity is logged and you can be served up if a rights holder comes knocking.

      Hey, I didn’t say it was a good solution.

    • JamesMJohnson

      Spurple, Most businesses utilise SSL based VPN’s for remote working (OpenSSL, DirectAccess, Fortigate or variants of). There’s still a few mobile IPSec clients in circulation but they are losing popularity due to NAT’ing issues with certain ISPs.
      This is my point… how would they distinguish between a corporate VPN or a personal one ?
      If they just block the known bad endpoints then the criminally minded will just VPN to a VPS outside of the UK’s jurisdiction.
      The next step is to either block all VPNs or back to the familiar “we need to see the contents of your encrypted tunnel”.

    • Meadmodj

      Any detection of “illegal” use would need to be based on a known signature as you would for virus/malware. You are probably aware of the apps that can detect music and tell you the artist, track etc. It is the same principle. It would take a lot of processing and IA techniques. Monitoring the VPN tunnel is more difficult but not impossible. More practical is to place a provision on all VPN providers to monitor stream signatures that do not originate from the content provider. To reduce the amount of processing power the content providers could transmit a repeatable signature hidden from the viewer.
      The alternative is to include signature recognition within the official player app to the content providers server (excluding authorised ISP CDNs).
      High cost of content is fuelled by the consumer and the willingness by the content owners to pay the ransoms to the sport, film and music industries.

    • Mike

      They could allow VPN’s for businesses only.

    • SuperFast Dream

      Not all businesses can afford Enterprise grade VPN Services or have the facilities to host such services via Hardware based devices such as UTM’s etc, they may also be sitting behind a Broadband provision service that uses CGNAT for example. If they are unable to receive a SuperFast product via a landline provision they may have to opt for a Wireless or Mobile service which enforces CGNAT by default with no facility to offer a static IP.

      Such a business may therefore have no choice but to sign up to an online VPN Service that provides them with a physical static IP via a VPS, which could possibly be hosted in another country outside the UK. This may allow them to host back end services and make them available to the wider public in the same way Joe Public can do it with a landline-based ISP and static IP.

      There are plenty of VPN services out there that will provide you with such a service, NordVPN being one of a number, and such business certainly have their place in the business world too. Many organisations may see this as an essential lifeline and a much more cost-effective option to overcome the restrictions laid down to them through no fault of their own.

      If the likes of NordVPN (among others) are targeted then the smaller organisations that use them may be brought to their knees.

      Now if we were discussing this topic in an IPV6 world……

    • SuperFast Dream

      Sorry, I meant to add, this is just looking at things from a slightly different angle while using VPN technologies.

  2. Optimist

    So who decides whether the law has been broken or not? This looks like carte blanche for large incumbent media companies to shut down competition.

  3. chris conder

    Copyright laws of today remind me of the monks trying to stop the printing presses.
    Government are far too stupid to beat the pirates. They will break our internet if they persist in protecting the media moguls who have ripped off the public for too long. If the moguls made things affordable and artists performed for a fair day’s wage then pirates would soon be out of business. It will take a while for change to happen, but change it must.The digital economy act rushed through washup was a disgrace.

    • dee.jay

      Absolutely right – the government will not be happy until they have totally destroyed the freedoms enjoyed on the internet. They don’t like it.

  4. Dave C

    As has been said many times, most notably by Gabe Newell, piracy is a service problem. Cheap music streaming cut large chunks out of piracy. Likewise for Netflix and TV and movies although there’s a resurgence in different companies wanting to provide a streaming service only for their products which is a backwards step.

    Make it cheaper and make it easier and you make it far less likely for people to pirate. Also if it’s that cheap and that easy then you might just get people on board with tougher punishments. As it stands it’s heavily weighted to business (looking at you 90 copyright) and does nothing to get normal every day citizens on side.

  5. brian

    “Sam Gyimah, UK Minister for Intellectual Property, said:
    …We have always been clear that media streaming devices used to access ‘paid for’ material for free are illegal. Recent prosecutions have shown that if caught, sellers of boxes adapted in this way face fines and a prison sentence.”

    Based on that idiotic diatribe especially the bit in bold are they going to lock up the likes of Amazon, Samsung, LG, Sony, Google and Microsoft who all produce and provide devices with Iplayer on them? They are technically “devices used to access ‘paid for’ material for free” BBC content is not free. Even though the same intellectual property idiots have stated that iplayer should only be used by those that have a TV license (for both live and ondemand content now i may add).

    Yet here Amazon and others are happily selling a device to people which may not have a TV licence but the device comes with a method built into it for them to watch content that should be paid for, freely.

    Quite what the difference is between flogging a device to someone with NO TV licence with an app on it to watch BBC content which actually requires you PAY to watch the content and billy down the pub flogging a device to someone to watch premier league football as an example (one that p1sses them off) which you should also be paying for but instead watch for free i have no idea, as technically both are committing the same offence of distributing a device used to enable the theft of copyright material without paying for it.

    What a true paid up film and TV industry brainwashed idiot.

    • Spurple

      Amazon passes your details to TV Licensing when you buy a qualifying device.

      Perhaps the TV Licensing people need to update their definition of qualifying device.

    • UK DIM-isters

      “Amazon passes your details to TV Licensing when you buy a qualifying device.”

      I could not see any mention of that fact on their Fire Stick TV device product page. You may be right it would not shock me. However when i bought my Nvidia Shield (which also has iplayer) they did not send my details AFAIK.

      I am not even sure if Iplayer comes on those fire devices by default and given the fact Amazon are also allowing those outside the UK access to iplayer which requires a UK TV licence it seems they are still facilitating copyright infringing…..
      https://www.amazon.com/BBC-MEDIA-APPLICATIONS-TECHNOLOGIES-LIMITED/dp/B009SQRRCG/
      (click the second image in that link to see what that app from the AMERICAN Amazon site offers.)

      Again i see nothing on that app page to warn you to own a UK TV licence first either.

      You may well be right with regards to buying something like a TV from them (at least amazon UK) as highstreet stores often ask for your info when buying one of those to provide to the TV Licence people, EVEN though you DO NOT need a TV Licence to own a television or a device like a Fire Stick.

      Even if it is true i fail to see how that would help or work when it comes to ordering on Amazon, when on the Fire Stick page you can add the device to your cart as a gift for someone else entirely, which can even be in another country.

      Kodi software also as mentioned in the news item which these copyright police seem to always have their knickers in a twist over likewise is not illegal software either and there is no such thing as a ‘Kodi box’, its software not hardware… Or short version government as usual equals no f’ing clue.

    • Mark

      “Amazon passes your details to TV Licensing when you buy a qualifying device.”

      The requirements to notify TVL of a purchase was repealed back in 2013 and no longer occurs.

  6. Richard Walton

    Wish the same amount of effort by government was applied to improving the infrastructure and well-being of this country.
    Big business with deep pockets paying lobbyists make a real difference!

  7. Chris Hills

    Encrypted SNI will make it a lot harder for ISP’s to block websites. You would have to resort to either China level blocking (which involves a lot of collateral), or you would have to use government-approved proxies for certain websites – however this would be difficult to implement with DNSSEC and PKI.

  8. hmm

    fail fail and fail again

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