One of copyright holders’ most-favored anti-piracy mechanisms in place today involves site-blocking. Censoring sites at the ISP level is effective, rightsholders insist, not to mention cheaper than direct legal action against pirate sites.
In most countries where site-blocking is already in place, authorities have previously determined that the legal system must be involved. In the UK, for example, existing legislation was deemed to offer rightsholders the tools they need. Australia, on the other hand, decided to introduce legal amendments to keep things on the straight and narrow.
Portugal decided to take a different approach, one that simply involved an agreement between rightsholders, ISPs and the government. Now, if a site is considered to be illegal by these parties, it can be blocked without stepping into a courtroom.
For copyright holders it’s the Holy Grail and they’re taking full advantage of the new system. This week during a conference in the capital, Lisbon, the Portuguese Association for the Protection of Audiovisual Works revealed the extent of the program and it’s as critics feared.
Executive Director Antonio Paulo Santos reported that Portugal is now blocking a vast range of file-sharing and related sites, offering movies, TV, shows and music to streaming sports and books. In total more than 330 sites are now being blocked by local Internet service providers.
The rate of blocking is unprecedented. In October 2015 more than 50 sites were blocked by ISPs, including KickassTorrents, ExtraTorrent, Isohunt and RARBG. The following month another 40 were added, including BitSnoop, YourBitorrent, SeedPeer, Torlock and Torrentfunk.
Since then another 240 sites have been quietly added to the list. This rapid growth means that along with the United Kingdom and Italy, Portugal is already a world leader in pirate site blockades. All this has been achieved without ever going near a court room.
It is this kind of voluntary agreement that Hollywood and the major record labels are pushing for internationally, whether they’re with Internet service providers, domain registries or companies such as PayPal, Visa and Mastercard. The process in Portugal ticks all the right boxes for the entertainment companies so expect it to be championed elsewhere.