Is blocking websites the best way to stop piracy?
The always-contentious issue of how best to stop online copyright infringement came to the fore again this week when five of the UK's biggest internet service providers (ISPs) were told to block The Pirate Bay (TPB).
A High Court judge instructed Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to prevent broadband customers from accessing the Swedish website, which is one of the world's most popular filesharing sites.
On the face of it, stopping people from visiting a site that appears to promote illegal activity may seem a sensible option and it may well dissuade a few users from engaging in illegal filesharing in the future.
However, the blocking of websites sets a dangerous precedent and, as the Open Rights Group points out, is only likely to lead to calls for further types of content - from pornography to extremism - to be censored.
Censorship on the internet appears to be an increasingly popular option, with the decision to block TPB coming six months after ISPs were told to stop broadband customers accessing Usenet indexing site Newzbin2.
The effectiveness of this measure is debateable, as it carries with it the risk that the criminals - in this case the pirates - will be turned into heroes.
This already appears to be the case with TPB, which issued a call to arms after news of the blocking order was reported and has already seen more than 900 people support the campaign by 'liking' it on Facebook.
Rather than trying to stop people visiting certain websites, a more sensible option would be for the creative industries to work on more attractive ways for consumers to get hold of music, films and games legally and at a fair price.
Virgin Media has taken steps to address this by launching a range of broadband packages that include the digital music service Spotify.
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