The Death Of Digital Piracy In The UK

Last month saw the number of torrent sites blocked by all UK internet service providers increase to four. H33T, Kickass Torrents and Fenopy join Pirate Bay on the list of sites that UK internet users can no longer directly access. The seven major broadband providers were all subject to a high court order brought by the The British Phonographic Industry and nine major record labels.

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The websites in question are huge. All three have hundreds of thousands of visitors every day and Kickass Torrents is in the top 50 most visited sites in the UK. It’s still only a drop in the ocean, however. There are hundreds of other torrents where music and other copyrighted material can be shared and illegally downloaded yet this court action continues to set a precedent. Last year Pirate Bay was the first of its type to have access restricted via a legal process. Almost exactly twelve months later another three have suffered the same fate. This new spate of restrictions proves that the process is accelerating, the speed and willingness with which the courts will grant action has increased dramatically. These results are likely to encourage other media owners who have, until now, suspected that the cost of a case and the uncertain outcome was prohibitive to pursuing it. The British Phonographic Industry only represents the interests of musicians, it would be prudent to expect film makers, software developers and publishers to get involved in the future too.

The legal process is much longer than the time it takes to set up a torrent website and they continue to pop up frequently, however, it does begin to make file-sharing incrementally less convenient. Initially, users of the three recently banned sites will have to find somewhere else to file share. Not especially tricky now but in six months when that site gets blocked and they have to move on again and again, at what point does it become too inconvenient? Likewise, for the owners of sites, at what point does the knowledge that their site will eventually be blocked become a deterrent for launching in the first place? Certainly not now or in the immediate future but further down the line with a lengthening list of restricted sites there might be a behavioural shift. Several experts have suggested that as much as price is a dictating factor in piracy, so is convenience. The number of clicks required, on average, to legally purchase media is greater than the number required to illegally download it. If it was harder to file share would it be as popular?

For years broadband providers have shipped filters with their services like TalkTalk‘s Homesafe which include user-configured settings and a ‘torrent’ option that restricts access to a pre-determined list of file sharing sites. To date these services have made little impression and last month’s court cases are unlikely to change any immediate habits. After all, restrictions are only applied to UK ISPs so tech-savvy users can easily circumvent them should they choose to.

It’s important to point out that there are perfectly legitimate uses for file sharing along with some moral and legal grey areas. However, if torrent users continue to share copyrighted material the media owners will continue to pursue legal action. Whilst not dramatic on their own, these new cases could well have a huge knock-on effect for digital piracy.

Article supplied by TalkTalk.

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