UK mobile operators have started to ban access to illegal file-sharing sites, following the precedent set by broadband providers a decade ago.
In 2012, the High Court decreed that 70 pirate websites, most notably ‘The Pirate Bay’ should be blocked to British web users following a successful case led by music industry body the British Phonographic Institute (BPI).
Several more websites were added to the list in the subsequent months and years, including sites offering free illegal streams of sporting events. Hundreds of sites are now covered by orders.
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At the time, mobile phones accounted for a much smaller proportion of web use than fixed connections. Ten years on, and 4G and 5G traffic has increased significantly, driven by speed upgrades, availability, and the wider shift to mobile devices.
Now the BPI, which estimates piracy costs the music industry up to £200 million a year, has managed to extend the ruling to cover mobile connections, meaning operators will have to comply with the regulations. EE has become the first operator to do so, and the BPI says it hopes more will follow.
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“There are now more mobile subscriptions than people in the UK and we want those fans to enjoy genuine music sites and be protected from illegal sites as much as they already are on their broadband and Wi-Fi,” said BPI General Counsel Kiaron Whitehead.
“A quarter of people now connect to the internet over 3G, 4G and 5G rather than broadband and Wi-Fi. That growth brings with it the risk of increased music piracy. The operators of these pirate sites make millions of pounds a year, without a penny going to the creators of the music they exploit.
“We are therefore pleased that EE – which was the first mobile network to launch 5G to the UK population – has now become the first mobile network to block pirate sites which are subject to our High Court blocking Orders under section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.”
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