British ISPs Stop The Promo Bay Blockade

UK’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have stopped blocking access to the Promo Bay (promobay.org) website, after the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) group removed it from the legally enforced ban list.

The website, which promotes independent musicians, film-makers and other artists, was spun off from the infamous Pirate Bay and launched last week, but was subsequently blocked by Virgin, BT and its subsidiary BE Broadband. But BT has confirmed it has unblocked the site.

“The BPI have now taken the Promo Bay websites off the block list, and we (but obviously can’t speak for other ISPs) have unblocked it – by updating our DNS servers with the new Pirate Bay list,” a spokesperson told TechWeekEurope.

Website non-grata

The list of IP addresses and websites that are to be blocked by ISPs remains unpublished and left at the discretion of the BPI, which represents music labels.

According to the injunction BPI obtained in April, UK ISPs are legally required to block access to www.thepiratebay.se, its domain and sub-domains and any other IP or web addresses that facilitate access to The Pirate Bay website.

Earlier this week, a Virgin Media spokesperson explained: “Promobay.org is included on the list of URLs Virgin Media is required to block under UK law following the ruling of the High Court against the Pirate Bay. As a responsible ISP, Virgin Media complies with court orders addressed to the company but strongly believes compelling legal alternatives are needed to give consumers access to great content at the right price.”

For several years, the Pirate Bay used its homepage to promote independent artists. In January, it streamlined the process, which resulted in over 10,000 submissions to date. Being featured on the 76th most popular webpage on the Internet (according to Alexa) helped participants gain thousands of new fans and hundreds of thousands of views.

Promo Bay was subsequently created in order to help organise the submissions and give some exposure to artists not lucky enough to be featured on the homepage.

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

“The BPI intends to obtain blocking orders for some 50-100 websites. Each order allows the BPI to create a ban list of clone sites or IP addresses,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. “These ban lists could end up blocking perhaps 500 or more domains and IP addresses, all at the behest of the BPI.

“There is a clear need for transparency, as mistakes are already being made, and are only being corrected because of public pressure. We call on ISPs and the BPI to publish the blocking lists in the name of legal transparency and public accountability.”

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Max Smolaks

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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