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29 November 2017

We're against website blocking

Sky TV wants ISPs to block websites that provide content illegally.

Sky TV is seeking a high court injunction under the New Zealand Copyright Act to require internet service providers (ISPs) to block certain websites the pay TV provider has deemed provide content illegally. The Vocus Group – which owns Flip, Orcon and Slingshot – has called the move “gross censorship”.

Sky, citing Australian examples, said its proposed move would ensure “that blatant piracy sites can be blocked at the ISP level, and a number of sites have been successfully blocked in [Australia] as a result”. It also says that, by rejecting the call to block certain sites, Vocus is “wanting to align their brand with pirates who steal content”.

As yet, Sky has not released a list of sites it wants blocked.

Consumer NZ’s stance has always been against accessing illegal content; this includes sites allowing copyright-infringing peer-to-peer transfer. However, we see the blocking of websites as an ineffective way to curb piracy.

We think the best strategy for reducing copyright infringement is by increasing access to legal content. This should be done through wider distribution, sensible pricing and greater accessibility for all users (including those with sight and hearing impairments).

These systems have been proven effective, as Netflix’s 2015 entry into the New Zealand market has shown. Netflix is now the largest online content provider in the country, while traffic to Pirate Bay (a well-known site that provides content illegally) has dropped 77% since 2013 (via Vocus).

Website blocking leads to multiple issues for ISPs. There is a cost involved in blocking and it is unclear if Sky would cover this. Website blocking can also lead to false positives, as was seen in the US when Warner Bros asked Google to remove its own site. There is currently no recourse for accidental take-down, opening ISPs up to potential legal action should they take down a non-infringing site. The blocks brought in by Australian ISPs have not been proven to reduce piracy.

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