After three years in operation, a list of websites blocked by order of the British High Court reads like a who’s who of online copyright infringement.
Including such infamous piracy sites as Popcorn Time, isohunt, Bittorrent, and The Pirate Bay, the project has yet to hit 100 names, but still sums up the massive battle facing rights holders around the world.
As well as the hard work of the British Phonographic Institute (BPI), which makes up the majority of the block requests, further interest is to be found in claims from the likes of Cartier and Montblanc, clearly concerned about counterfeit watches being sold online, and the Football Association, which manages the viewing rights to Britain’s lucrative Premier League soccer games.
Both represent premium international brands, albeit in very different consumer markets, being undercut by sites that trade on their reputation but contribute nothing to its maintenance.
This diverse group of plaintiffs typifies the piracy problem; whether physical product or digital goods, any online intermediary that takes intellectual property without paying for the privilege damages the long-term viability of the brand and business that created it.
The United Kingdom is, of course, a friend and similarly-minded market to the United States when it comes to intellectual property protection, so it comes as no surprise to see several claims from the Motion Picture Association of America upheld and enforced by British court order.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said of many countries that host piracy sites, hence the ongoing drive to “name and shame” not only the companies who play a major role in international copyright infringement, but the nations that let them get away with it.
The companies themselves also face a stark choice between legitimacy and piracy, as Alibaba is now finding out from its history on that same list of notorious markets. Facilitating counterfeit operations presumably did its growth no harm when it operated primarily to a domestic audience in China. Now that its hopes to continue the rapid expansion of the past year rest in the US, however, the ecommerce giant is having to lobby extra hard to erase that black mark(et) from its past.
Sadly, most piracy sites involved in content theft face no such problems. They hold no aspirations of becoming legitimate media sites, only a desire to operate outside the law long enough to make a name for themselves in piracy circles, attract enough attention to score some ill-gotten ad revenue, then disappear once they’re blocked, only to rise again under some alternative name.
The UK court’s list reminds us of both the progress and ongoing problems in the fight to protect intellectual property. Hopefully it won’t have to get too much longer to keep the major piracy sites out of business permanently.