/ Technology

Is blocking sites the right way to tackle illegal downloads?

Caution sign

A High Court Judge yesterday ruled that BT must now block access to the website Newzbin2 – a site that provides links to pirated films. But is this the right way to tackle illegal downloading?

This ruling, which is in favour of the Motion Pictures Association, comes over a year after the High Court ordered Newzbin2 to take down all illegal content and pay damages to the relevant film studios. The site then went into administration and avoided having to pay damages, before appearing online again, running anonymously from Sweden.

There is no doubt in my mind that it is essential that copyright holders are protected by law – without this, the creative industries would surely suffer and, as a result, so would we. But what is the best way to combat illegal file sharing?

Is blocking people from accessing this online content a disproportionate response?

Give me a warning

Under the controversial Digital Economy Act, which BT and Talk Talk have unsuccessfully tried to halt, ISPs are required to send warning letters to internet users who rights holders claim to be illegally downloading copyrighted content from file sharing sites.

This seems to be a sensible enough approach. If you were illegally downloading files, you’d get a letter from your ISP telling you that they know what you are doing and ask you to stop. If you persist then you could face ‘technical measures’, including the slowing or blocking of access to the net.

But would that approach actually stop persistent illegal file sharers using sites such as Newzbin2? Surely they will just wait until they receive their second warning letter and then switch to a different ISP?

Censoring the internet?

On the other hand, asking ISPs to block access to content feels like a dangerous path to tread in relation to censorship and net neutrality. Not everyone feels this way, with Lord Puttnam, president of the Film Distributors Association commenting:

‘Finally, it seems we have a way to deal with rogue sites which will benefit the film industry including UK independent distributors and, more broadly, the entire creative sector.’

Personally, I think the best way to stop a large chunk of the illegal file sharing that currently goes on, and in doing so protect the incomes of our creative industries, is for these industries to ensure that cost-effective legal alternatives to this content is available for download.

Restrictive licensing of films, TV shows and music serves to fuel the use of illegal sites, as people who really want to see that film or listen to that track may feel that they’re left with no option but to illegally download it.

Is blocking websites the right way to tackle illegal downloading?

No (60%, 220 Votes)

Yes (28%, 101 Votes)

I don't know (12%, 45 Votes)

Total Voters: 366

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Anyone who really wants to avoid this will just go ahead and encrypt their connection or use a VPN service hosted in another country – pointless legislation! Educate don’t legislate!!

Wild Thing (D McC) says:
2 August 2011

Not everyone knows how to encrypt (me too), so surely education should be a tool but are new tools universal esp as the rogue is nearly — just ahead! So hey for now at least use a combo of tools and effective education. Not everyone is as the late r. Fenyman and able to think with complete understanding “on their feet”!

[Hello Wild Thing, please try not to write in all caps – it sounds like you’re shouting. Check out our Commenting Guidelines if you’re unsure. Thanks, mods.]


Piracy of films and music might never have happened if the companies had not been so greedy in the first place.

The story of failed attempts to combat piracy could make an interesting film and a lesson to anyone planning to sell downloadable material online.


I wonder of those expensive legal eagles got the wording right or will Newzbin2 just rebrand to Newxbin3 (or equiv) to get round it ?

And maybe if these film companies didn’t region code, delay releases for so long after the cinema, charge so much in the 1st place , ( just 2-3 months if that, something that started out at £15.99 is lowered to £4.99). People would actually be able to buy the real deal.

The film industry are their own worst enemies.

GrantG says:
30 July 2011

I download a lot of music, and I much prefer to do it legally. This has its drawbacks, however: the transaction amounts can be very small, and on one occasion my bank stopped my card because of this “suspicous” usage. Also, the file formats vary from site to site which can cause problems. Strrangely, the legal sites constantly indulge in anti-competive behaviour, but the illegal sites don’t.

On the subject of films or DVDs I have on more than one occasion remarked that maybe I should download illegally because then I wouldn’t be required to sit through the obligatory propaganda about illegal downloading on my (legally-bought) DVDs.

Charlotte says:
2 August 2011

I know what you mean. I absolutely hate those illegal download ads. It talks about supporting the film industry but doesn’t say what that means, which is useless. I think it means giving more budding film makers opportunities but that’s not clear, instead they appear to be saying, support the film industry, please line our executives pockets. I work in marketing, so I’m particularly enraged by this useless communications exercise. I also think it’s the wrong argument. Let’s find some filmmakers and do something better.

The real point about rip of DVDs for me is that they are funding crime, so when you buy Toy Story to entertain your kids at the weekend you’re probably funding a dealer who’ll get them into trouble when they get to their early teens. That’s the point, what kind of person/enterprise are you funding.

Damn Young says:
30 July 2011

I have never downloaded copyrighted material unlawfully, and like to have the pukka music CDs. Blocking websites is not the way. Law enforcers need to go after the site owners. They can be traced, and extradited, if necessary. I notice that a music CD can cost up to £15, but I can buy a film on DVD for only £3 or so. Why are music CDs such a rip-off? The trouble with mp3 files is they are not as good quality as CD tracks.

FC360 says:
30 July 2011

I’ve downloaded films illegally but stopped awhile ago as they stopped releasing films I had to see. The reason I used to download the films illegally was due to the high cinema cost, it cost over £10 to go to cinema and watch a film here, that includes a drink. I just didn’t see the point in wasting £10 to sit in a uncomfortable chair staring at a screen which is too big, I used to miss stuff that happened because I was looking at a different part of the screen at the time.

The music industry gets on my nerves. They sell Albums at £10 each, sometimes more for multiple discs but for now I’ll use 1 disc albums, if the album sells 500,000 that’s £5 million the artist and studio have made. If they sold it at half the price that make £2.5 million however because of the lower price they would probably sell more copies so they would probably make more money.

If they want to stop people downloading stuff illegally make the things cheaper so more can afford it.


I think they should close down illegal file sharing sites without warning – after all you don’t warn any other thief do you? Then block each and every illegal site from the downloader’s ISP side so that anyone found to be downloading illegally loses the use of their connection.- that’ll soon stop the illegal behaviour.

The cost is virtually nothing to do with it – you can buy the DVDs on-line legally for around £3 or less second-hand just a little time after the initial release. I certainly find it cheaper to watch a DVD at home than go to the cinema. Or you can rent them (as I do) from such places as Lovefilm at around £3 a time – or download (stream) them legally.

If you must watch it a few days after general release – pay the full price legally.for the privilege..- just like those who go to the cinema do – helps to support both the makers and the displayers..


Do you understand the technical implications of what you are suggesting? – in addition the loss of all internet connection because of accessing a site is well on the way to censorship in general.

What happens if a child accesses a site – does everyone in the house get punished?

What if another legitimate website is hosted on the same IP as the problem site?

What if you access the site by accident or have your wireless connection used by your neighbour/AN other?

This kind of over the top reaction is what leads to poorly thought out and impractical legislation. Understand the problem before offering an opinion on how to solve it.


Sorry I understand the technical implications of what I suggest – I get tired of the lack of responsibility shown by so many “it’s never my fault” – it IS your fault.

If it is your child that downloads – it is your fault for lack of supervision – If your connection is at fault – it is your responsibility. That’s what all the safeguards are for – You cannot download a film “by accident”.

Frankly I understand the problem – but I doubt if you understand or accept YOUR responsibility/


Wow – You make the assumption that I am guilty when in fact I am just interested and well informed on the subject – Well done for clarifying that you are both uninformed and an over-reactionary though, it is appreciated.

If you did understand the implications then you would have understood the point about the same IP hosting multiple sites or for example the ease with which a connection to a site can be masked via a VPN. (there are many more examples)

Blocking sites will not work – full stop.

However, educating people to the implications of what they are doing, backed up, as the more sensible people in this convo have suggested, with well thought out legal downloads will get much more of a result for the media owners. The sooner they realise this and stop listening to their lawyers or people like you the better.