Site Blocking Gaining Steam Globally as Anti-Piracy Measure

A U.S. district judge in New York has established a new front in the anti-piracy war, ruling that a long list of domestic ISPs must block three Israeli websites found to be in violation of copyright law. Judge Katherine Polk Failla ordered the ISPs to block the sites Israeli-TV.com, Israel.tv and Sdarot.tv, and also any domains known to be “used in the future … by any technological means available.” Also affected are web hosting service providers, web designers, domain registrars and advertising companies, now banned from doing business with the sites.

The late April ruling was the result of copyright lawsuits against the three Hebrew-language services. “The rightsholders demanded monetary damages from the site operators — who didn’t show up in court — and an injunction meant to prevent viewers from accessing the services,” The Verge reports, noting “users should instead be directed to a page that notifies them of the block.”

Described as one of the most comprehensive copyright rulings to date, the sweeping order is unusual in its scope. Public Knowledge senior policy counsel Meredith Rose tells The Verge the ruling “is exactly what the content lobby has been pushing to get and explicitly lobbying for years now,” calling it a “dream scenario” in that rightsholders were able “to go into court and quickly and easily get one order that they could then hold out to the world that says: do not interact with this particular website.”

The Verge compares the order to the Stop Online Piracy Act “a highly controversial bill that was scuttled after widespread protests in 2012” that would also “have created a category of ‘rogue’ foreign piracy sites that ISPs and other companies were required to ban, something critics said might amount to an overpowered censorship tool.”

Site blocking clauses are increasingly becoming normalized, and the language has made its way into a new free trade agreement drafted between the UK and Australia.

“Over the years, copyright holders have tried a multitude of measures to curb online piracy, with varying levels of success. Site blocking has emerged as one of the preferred solutions,”  reports TorrentFreak, noting that while “blocking measures are not bulletproof, the general idea is that they pose a large enough hurdle for casual pirates to choose legal options instead.”

Dozens of countries now have laws that enable copyright holders to request “blockades.” Australia and the UK “have robust site-blocking legislation in place,” TorrentFreak writes, explaining “ISPs in both countries are required to prevent subscribers from accessing thousands of domain names, with more being added every few months. Rightsholders are happy with these legal remedies and the authorities are pleased as well.”