Advanced Television

MPA supports pirate site blocking

March 12, 2020

By Colin Mann

Trade body the Motion Picture Association (MPA) has suggested that site blocking is an effective way to combat piracy.

Appearing before a US Senate Committee Hearing on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property on ‘Approaches of Foreign Jurisdictions to Copyright Law and Internet Piracy’, Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director, MPA EMEA, suggested the most successful approach to online piracy currently available, pioneered by international partners: was the no-fault injunctive relief.

“This remedy allows a rights holder to seek a legal order, subject to due process, from an online intermediary that is capable of preventing its service from being used for unlawful purposes. The remedy does not interfere with the legitimate business of online intermediaries, and they can select which enforcement measures to implement provided they are effective and proportionate,” he advised.

“One form of no-fault relief is site blocking, which is an order to an ISP to disable access to a given pirate site,” he explained. “Many countries currently offer such a no-fault injunctive remedy to address infringing conduct by pirate sites, including Australia, most member states of the European Union, India and the United Kingdom, to name a just a few. Globally 34 countries apply website blocking. One of the most recent additions to this list is Canada, where the Federal Court in November granted an intermediary injunction, sought by several broadcasters, in a case involving a notorious illegal streaming TV service.”

He noted that in the UK since 2011 there had been 23 court cases leading to civil injunctions against 176 infringing sites spread across more than 2,000 domains and that these site blocking orders had been enacted without any ill effects to the larger Internet ecosystem. In particular:

  • Sites not intended to be encompassed by the block have been successfully excluded (measures to prevent ‘overblocking’ are applied on an automated and continuous basis).
  • Security has not been undermined by an exodus to alternative domain name system (DNS) servers.
  • Freedom of speech remains strong. Courts in the UK have had no trouble understanding the difference between an injunctive remedy against illegal conduct of third parties on the one hand and the preservation of freedom of speech on the other.
  • And innovation continues, with the UK still boasting the third largest digital technology sector in the world, according to its government.

According to McCoy, MPA data shows that site blocking is very effective at cutting traffic to pirate domains – meaning that an order applicable to the main access providers in a given country reduces traffic to a targeted domain by 70 per cent on average and can be as high as 80-90 per cent in some countries.

“We also find that consistent use of site blocking increases the overall health of the online ecosystem, including by decreasing overall piracy traffic and increasing traffic to legitimate content sources,” he reported. “By that we mean that when rights holders are able to obtain orders against significant numbers of pirate sites, sites responsible for a large proportion of piracy traffic, we also see notable reductions in the overall volume of pirate traffic. The traffic to blocked sites significantly decreases and the overall piracy traffic decreases as well, as shown by research in the UK, Portugal and Australia.

Listing other benefits, he concluded “yes, site blocking is effective. And that is why much of the rest of the world has embraced this approach”.


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