Kickass Torrents has ass kicked

A British high court order has spurred top ISPs to block three of the largest BitTorrent sites.

BT, Virgin Media, O2 and Be There have all stopped customers from accessing KickassTorrents, H33T and Fenopy after it was claimed in the courts they were facilitating copyright infringement.

The sites were allegedly raking in cash – with revenues estimated for KickassTorrents at around $12,525,469 and $22,383,918, according to an expert quoted in the verdict.

TorrentFreak reports that the High Court ordered six ISPs including BT, Sky, Virgin Media, O2, EE and TalkTalk to block subscriber access to the three torrent sites after the BPI stuck its oar in and moaned that they damaged legal music sales. This is despite evidence from the European Commission that pirates are actually avid content fiends who also pay for their films, TV shows, and music.

No date had been set for the block and TorrentFreak pointed out its own investigations had found these sites were now being blocked.

The order is similar to the one which resulted in a nationwide block of The Pirate Bay last year. At the time the Open Rights Group said the block was “an extreme response,” and claimed the BPI and the courts needed to “slow down and be very careful about this approach”.

This advice was clearly not taken to heart.

The content industry would be wise to understand the Streisand Effect: that an active effort to censor something online will actually increase its popularity. Indeed, when the Pirate Bay was first blocked it quickly became one of the most accessed websites in the UK.

For some low-level pirates, the move will be effective advertising for, H33T, and Fenopy as useful alternatives to Googling for “Iron Man torrent”. Blocking these websites usually has a Hydra effect on their proxies: when one is blocked, more spring up in its place. Even without proxies, it only takes minimal Googling for a user to figure out how to get around the blocks.

So, actually, the BPI might well be shooting itself in the foot on this one. By blocking these websites it is trying to turn the clock back on file sharing – impossible – and tarring itself as an anti-progressive force, much like the rest of the content industry.