Pirate Party UK To Be Sued By Music Copyright Holders

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The political organisation has chosen to fight to keep the Pirate Bay proxy online

Pirate Party UK (PPUK), the political organisation concerned with the copyright, privacy and freedom of speech issues, is in danger of being sued by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), after it refused to take down the proxy leading to the Pirate Bay website.

BPI represents music copyright holders, and its members include giants such as Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group. The industry body asked PPUK to switch off the proxy server in November, threatening legal action as an alternative.

PPUK has started a fundraising campaign on its website, in order to help assemble a legal team that is capable of putting together a case that will keep the proxy in place.

Fighting pirates

In April, the High Court ordered five major British ISPs to block access to the Pirate Bay, on the grounds that it facilitated copyright infringement. The decision came after the BPI failed to negotiate voluntary blocking.

However, by July, the amount of peer-to-peer traffic returned to its pre-ban levels, thanks in part to the proxy servers that allowed to circumvent the block, run by organisations like PPUK.

According to Web metrics company Alexa, the PPUK proxy is currently the 140th most visited Internet destination in the UK. The Pirate Party has said that closing the website down is not “something it can agree to”.

“Censorship is never the right answer. Censorship, in any form, interferes with crucial freedoms and rarely delivers on its aims. Censorship’s only effect is to hide underlying problems or pretend they do not exist, rather than dealing with them directly,” says a statement on the PPUK website.

Now, BPI is said to be preparing its lawyers for a legal battle. However, according to the leader of the Party Loz Kaye, it is not clear if providing a proxy server to a blocked website is illegal.

“If we do end up in court, it will give us an opportunity to present the argument that site blocking is not the answer and that blocking intermediaries is indefensible. If we continue down this route we will see irreparable harm done to search engines, service providers and many others,” continues the PPUK statement.

Last week, British ISPs started to block access to the newly launched and completely legitimate Promo Bay website (promobay.org), because of its ties to the Pirate Bay. Several days later, the website became accessible again, after the BPI removed it from the legally enforced ban list –  because Promo Bay is in fact legal.

Free speech campaigners have criticised the BPI for not revealing the exact list of the websites it wants blocked, and the UK legal system for essentially giving free rein to the organisation representing commercial interests.

Using crowd-funding in order to protect consumer rights in court is becoming popular among advocacy groups. This week, Open Rights Group announced it collected the £5,000 needed to fund the legal case and keep around 6,000 O2 and Be Broadband customers’ personal details out of the hands of pornographer Ben Dover.

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