One by one the UK’s ISPs are falling to a creeping censorship of the web led not by some secretive government organisation but by the UK’s music industry in the shape of the British Phonographic Industry, the British record industry’s trade association. There is no democratic check on what’s happening and little recourse left open to the average person.
In a nice piece of investigation, Zack Whittacker at ZDNet has unpacked what’s happening before our eyes.
Not unlike SOPA, the U.K.’s antipiracy legislation, the Digital Economy Act, has a “three-strikes” system leading to Internet disconnections, but it’s been put on hold for implementation until 2014. So to get around this delay, the music industry is going to the courts.
In April 2011, the High Court in London ruled BT must block access to file-sharing site Newzbin2. BT did not appeal the decision, creating a precedent which means any person or organisation can bring a further action along the same lines.
That test case has led to other ISPs being forced to block access to the Pirate Bay, using, handily, the “Cleanfeed” system built originally to block child abuse imagery.
That means that now six of the U.K.’s largest broadband providers have been ordered by the High Court to block customers from accessing The Pirate Bay.
Virgin Media, TalkTalk and O2 Broadband have acceded to the demand, but only TalkTalk has made it explicit that the BPI is to blame.
U.K. citizens have not been barred from circumventing the blocks, but the total ban could extend to 20 million users, about a third of the U.K. population, although the six ISPs forced to block access to The Pirate Bay serve more than 92 percent of the U.K.’s broadband customers.
So that’s that then. The ISPs have capitulated in the courts and there’s no democratic recourse over where this will lead.
The fact that the BPI’s actions have now created a precedent which could be used by anyone else means the UK Internet is now up for grabs by any wanna-be censor. Nice work BPI.