UK court orders block of three torrent sites

The entire purpose of the websites is to attract users with the free means of copying content, the judge said

A court in the U.K. has ordered key Internet service providers in the country to block three torrent sites on a complaint from music labels including EMI Records and Sony Music.

The High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, ordered six ISPs including Virgin Media, British Telecommunications and British Sky Broadcasting to block H33t, Kickass Torrents and Fenopy, according to court records on the website of the non-profit British and Irish Legal Information Institute.

Infringement is not merely an inevitable consequence of the helpfully indexed and arranged torrent files provided by the websites, the judge wrote in his judgment on Thursday.

"The entire purpose of each of the Websites is to attract users to them by providing those users with the free means of copying and making available content which people are interested in and would otherwise pay money for," he added, while pointing out to the substantial advertising revenue earned by the websites. He said he was satisfied that both the users and the operators of the websites use the services of the ISPs to infringe the claimants' copyrights.

The judge also noted that he was satisfied that the defendant ISPs know that users and the operators of the websites use their services to infringe copyright. Before the commencement of the proceedings, the labels, through BPI (British Phonographic Industry), wrote to each of the defendants specifically drawing their attention to the use by subscribers of their services to infringe BPI members' copyrights through access to the websites, he said.

BPI's bid to get court orders to block torrent sites follows a ruling in April last year ordering ISPs in the U.K. to block access to The Pirate Bay. In 2011, BT was ordered to block another website called Newzbin2.

The evidence indicates that blocking orders are reasonably effective, the judge said, referring to blocks of The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents in Italy.

Digital rights organization, Open Rights Group, said Thursday that blocking is an "extreme response," which will encourage new forms of distributed infringement. The tactics of BPI and others could legitimize and promote resistance to their actions, it said in a blog post.

Illegal music file sharing declined significantly last year, with the number of consumers using peer-to-peer services to download music down 17 percent in 2012 from a year earlier, according to the NPD Group. The primary reason for the reduced sharing activity, which saw the volumes of illegal downloads of music files from P2P services also drop, was an increased use of free, legal music streaming services, it added.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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Tags Internet-based applications and servicesH33TBritish Phonographic Industryintellectual propertycopyrightlegalFenopyKickass Torrentsinternet

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