Late last week BSkyB, BT, Virgin Media and three other UK
broadband providers were ordered by the high court to block access to the music
and movie file-sharing websites Kickass Torrents (KAT), H33T and Fenopy. As the
ISPs named in the court order account for about 94 percent of the market, this means
these sites will be unavailable to the vast majority of the British population.
It’s the third such ruling issued by Mr Justice Arnold, who
previously has ordered UK ISPs to block the Pirate Bay and Newzbin1. Sure,
there is no dearth of other sites peddling unlicensed music and movies – and no
doubt hardcore pirates will move on to them –but there’s certainly something to be said for making it
less convenient for casual illegal downloaders to do so, as well as cutting off
a revenue source of these sites (Newzbin2 decided to close last year citing
financial problems following the legal action that was taken against its
But more significant is the fact that Arnold, in his most
recent ruling, not only concluded the sites’ take-down policy for pirated
material wasn’t effective – he also said it was overly burdensome to expect
rights holders to continually monitor the sites, and endlessly submit URLs for
their music and movies to be removed.
“This means that every single pirate site similar to this is
now liable to be blocked even if their takedown policy is effective.”
Price, director of piracy analysis at online security and anti-piracy
consultancy NetNames, told the Guardian.
Does this mean Grooveshark could be the next site on the chopping
After all, PRS for Music, the
British songwriters’ collection society, has not licensed the music-streaming
site – which means only music written by people who don’t belong to any
collection society at all can possibly be legally available on it.
A little over a year ago I attempted to remove my music from Grooveshark, spending countless hours and weeks, copying and pasting URLs into takedown
notices – only for my music reappear immediately under new URLs. From what I
can tell the particular song I focused on is now finally no longer available on
the site (which could be because I recounted my experience in an article for the
Guardian) – apart from where the title of the song is misspelled – but other songs that
I’ve co-written feature on it. And so do plenty of my fellow British
Two quick searches show Adele features heavily (Paul
Epworth, co-writer of some of her biggest hits, is also British). So does
British artist James Blake, who is signed to Universal – and no major
label, representing a large part of the music on the site, has licensed Grooveshark.
And what about Google and its YouTube?
These are questions that we’re sure both the PRS and
the British record industry trade body, the BPI, are mulling over. We’ll be
watching this space with interest…
Written while taking in the feverish melancholy of James
Blake’s new single Retrograde.