Monday, 4 March 2013
File Sharing Blocked by UK High Court
The UK High Court has once again issued a ruling forcing five Internet service Providers in Britain to block access to file-sharing websites. This time the three websites in question are H33T, Fenopy, and Kickass-Torrents. The action is similar to an order issued in 2012 requiring ISPs to block The PirateBay.
The legal action was initiated by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on the grounds that file sharing costs the media industry and copyright holders millions of pounds each year. The BPI originally sought agreements from ISPs to voluntarily block torrent websites.
ISPs fought back last year but were unsuccessful in getting the court to overturn its original ruling. They are likely to comply with this latest ruling rather than endure the expense of fighting it. UK Internet users can expect to no longer be able to access the three websites in question in the very near future.
Opponents of the court order claim blocking will not be an effective solution. Rather than going after ISPs and hosting companies, they believe a better strategy is for the media industry to look for other ways to increase revenues. They claim the digital age has unleashed a file-sharing beast that likely can never be controlled.
The idea of file sharing is based on peer-to-peer networking; a scenario in which neither a torrent site nor its hosting company actually stores any files on its servers. Instead, the site links users together so they can share files between themselves. Owners of these sites claim they are doing nothing illegal.
Following the 2012 order to block The PirateBay, torrent traffic in the UK immediately dropped by roughly 11%. That was seen as a victory for the media industry, despite the fact that it was short-lived. As soon as The PirateBay found a workaround using proxy servers, traffic returned to its previous levels.
The media industry may continue to file lawsuits and push for ISP blocking, but it is unlikely they will succeed in eliminating online piracy. Whether it is right or wrong, the piracy community is largely opposed to commercial entities whom they see as profiteering excessively from digital media. Their idealism drives them to continue to thwart the law while developing technologies to get around everything the industry throws at them.
The question for ISPs and hosting companies is one of liability. How long will it be before these companies are held financially liable for the actions of torrent website owners? Moreover, even if they are held liable, is there anything they can realistically do to end online piracy?
Observation and history tell us that even the most aggressive efforts to block pirates and users of peer-to-peer networks will be largely unsuccessful over the long haul. Better enforcement, by way of prosecution and asset seizure, is the better way to go. Only by making it seriously uncomfortable for the pirates themselves do we have any realistic chance of putting a stop to it.