The Pirate Bay faces UK ban after High Court ruling
The Pirate Bay, one of the world’s most popular filesharing websites, could soon be blocked in Britain after the High Court ruled it illegally encourages users to infringe music copyright.
The judgment by Mr Justice Arnold makes it more likely that major broadband providers will be ordered to cut off the Pirate Bay, which has been the scourge of the music and film industries for almost a decade.
It acts as a searchable index of links to BitTorrent trackers, which allow users to download files from each other. All the most popular files are copyright films, music and software.
The website claims to be the largest website of its kind, with more than four million trackers, and according to record labels generated up to $3m in advertising in October last year. Some 3.7 million Britons are Pirate Bay users, according to ComScore, and Alexa consistently ranks it in the 100 most popular websites in the world.
Because it does not itself host copyright material, the Pirate Bay’s defenders have often argued that it works in a similar way to Google, but Mr Justice Arnold found its operators “actively encourage” copyright infringement.
“In my judgment, the operators of [The Pirate Bay] do authorize its users' infringing acts of copying and communication to the public,” he said.
“They go far beyond merely enabling or assisting,” adding that Pirate bay users meanwhile have “a common design to infringe”.
"I conclude that both users and the operators of [The Pirate Bay] infringe the copyrights of the Claimants (and those they represent) in the UK."
The Pirate Bay was not represented in court. It is based in Sweden and has remained online over the years despite numerous attempts by copyright holders to shut it down, and its founders’ criminal convictions in 2009 for helping millions of users to infringe copyright.
"Despite their ability to do so and despite the judicial findings that have been made against them, the operators of [The Pirate Bay] take no steps to prevent infringement," said Mr Justice Arnold.
"On the contrary, as already explained, they actively encourage it and treat any attempts to prevent it (judicial or otherwise) with contempt."
The BPI, the record labels’ trade association, said today’s High Court ruling was a step towards having access tot the website blocked in Britain.
“The High Court today ruled that The Pirate Bay is illegal. The site defrauds musicians and causes huge damage to the music industry and wider creative industries,” said Geoff Taylor, the organization chief executive.
“The ruling helps clarify the law on website blocking and we will now proceed with our application to have the site blocked to protect the UK's creative industries from further harm.”
It follows a landmark decision against BT in the case of NewzBin2 last year. The website, which also helped users to download films and music from each other, had already been ruled illegal but moved overseas, out of the reach of British courts.
In the first ruling of its kind, the High Court said broadband providers could be ordered to block access to NewzBin2 under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. So far BT and Sky have cut off access, though determined users are able to circumvent the blocking system.
The case was expected to prompt similar actions by copyright holders, of which the attempt to cut off the Pirate bay is the first.