As the trial of the Pirate Bay founder enters its second week, fresh news reaches us that the death knell for file sharing websites could be imminent. According to a report from the Sunday Business Post, Ireland’s largest ISP Eircom has taken the unprecedented step of blocking access to peer to peer sites. The pledge came after pressure from the Irish Recorded Music Association which has threatened to sue broadband providers if they do not blacklist the site addresses.
Naturally, in some quarters the response has been one of outrage. Advocates of net freedom claim that this sets a dangerous precedent for censoring sites. Meanwhile, the characteristically vocal gaming community are up in arms on the grounds that it discriminates against gamers many of whom use the sites to share files legitimately.
Conversely, UK ISPs have yet to respond – officially, at least. But it’s fair to say that they’ll be watching developments very closely in months to come. I’d venture that some within the industry at least will be cheered by the news. If only because blocking sites is a lot less costly than the tax to music companies which ISPs would have to pay under proposals unveiled last year. Restricting access to the sites wholesale is also considerably less labour intensive than monitoring usage of individuals and imposing the mooted three strikes and out policy that France is adopting. This will also win fans within the broadband sector for an outright ban.
What is ironic about the controversial ban from Eircom is that it has come at a time when Spotify, which dis-incentivises illegal file sharing, is apparently offering a silver bullet for the problem of illegal downloads. Having grown from a niche interest to a music industry powerhouse in just a few months, I’m still firmly of the opinion that Spotify represents the best chance yet for music companies and ISPs to resolve their differences.