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UK ISP Sky Broadband Joins BT in Blocking the Newzbin2 Piracy Website

Posted: 15th Dec, 2011 By: MarkJ
pirate flagbest sky BskyB broadband ukCustomers of the Sky Broadband (BSkyB) service have this week joined those of BT in having their access to the controversial Newzbin2 piracy website blocked. Sky claims to have "received a court order requiring us to block access to this illegal website," which follows last month's warning letter by the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

The High Court of Justice (London) officially ordered BT to block the site in July 2011, which came after the MPA filed and successfully won an injunction against the broadband provider (here). The MPA then issued letters (here) to several other major UK ISPs ( TalkTalk , Virgin Media and Sky Broadband ) and called upon them to follow by BT's example.

Sky Broadband Statement

Sky is a business which has invested billions of pounds in content for its customers. We do this because we know how much our customers value high-quality content. It’s therefore imperative that companies like Sky do what they can, alongside Government and the rest of the media and technology industries, to help content companies protect their copyright. Such protection will ensure that consumers continue to benefit from TV programmes, movies and music both now and in the future. This means taking effective action against online piracy and copyright theft.

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

This happened with a website called Newzbin 2. We have received a court order requiring us to block access to this illegal website, which we did on 13th December, 2011. Moving forward, as and when clear and legally robust evidence of copyright theft is presented, we will take appropriate action in respect to site blocking, which will include complying with court orders.

Few will be surprised by this move, not least because Sky is both an ISP and a content provider (conflicting interests). However, Sky has always been dominated by its larger media business and is an often outspoken supporter of Rights Holders against internet copyright infringement (piracy).

The CTO of Business ISP Timico UK, Trefor Davies, said (blog):

"It is anticipated that all major consumer ISPs will get the same court order. It would be useful to measure the effectiveness of this activity. It will also be interesting to see whether Newsbin2 clones/mirrors will surface as was the case with Wikileaks and Pirate Bay although to my knowledge Newsbin2 is only being blocked in the UK (happy to be corrected here). Furthermore it will be useful to see how much growth there is in encrypted traffic out of the UK following these court orders."

Indeed many opponents of such measures, including quite a few ISPs, warn that it won't have much of an impact. Newzbin2 recently claimed that the majority of its active BT users have already downloaded the sites anti-censorship software, which circumvents ISP filtering systems. In fact there are many different ways to avoid such restrictions (e.g. VPN, Proxy Servers etc.). The only way to completely prevent such traffic is to prevent http/web access altogether.

Opponents also suggest that site blocking can be costly, ineffective and fails to address "the root causes of why people infringe copyright" (Consumer Focus). However for the time being it wouldn't be practical to request a Court Order for all the 'bad sites' and thus a Voluntary Code solution is still being developed (here).

Meanwhile the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled last month that measures, specifically those which order an ISP to install a system for filtering and blocking electronic communications in order to protect copyright, are effectively "illegal" under EU law (here). This ruling has yet to be tested in the UK.
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