UK Publishers Waste Time, Money to Get Court Order to Fight Piracy by Blocking Search Engines

5736954579_896755ca20_bBook publishers in the UK have just gotten the High Court to block pirate ebook sites which don't actually have any pirated ebooks, using a process which they did not actually have to follow.

The Financial Times reports that the UK Publishers Association has secured a court order to force the country's ISPs to enact network level blocks against seven pirate sites.

GoodeReader was not on the list, but the FT did say that:

Seven sites are subject to the High Court’s order, which is based on the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


One of the websites, Ebookee, offers titles from academic textbooks to the complete series of Harry Potter novels.

Another, Russia-based LibGen, distributes millions of scientific papers via torrents and accepts bitcoin donations.

The other named sites are AvaxHome, Freebookspot, Freshwap, Bookfi and Bookre.

When I first found this story on GalleyCat, I wasn't interested in writing about it. At first it struck me as just a photo opportunity that won't actually do anything to fight piracy, but then I read the list of sites to be banned.

And that's where things get interesting.

While the PA might say in its press release that "the 7 websites which have been found to contain substantial amounts of infringing content", a quick check reveals that many of the sites link to content; they do not host it themselves.

Two sites, eBookee and LibGen, are search engines, while another two(Freebookspot, Freshwap) are link sites. (I am not sure about two of the remaining sites, but AvastHome does host content.)

Update: A reader informs me that all 7 of the sites are either link sites or search engines. None actually host the pirated content.

So it turns out that the PA got a blocking order against sites which don't actually host any pirated ebooks, and hoped no one would confirm the claim that "the sites purport to hold around 10,000,000 ebook titles". (And to think it almost worked.)

I wish I could say that I was surprised, but I am not.

This kind of blocking order is the norm in Europe, and is particularly pernicious in the UK. The Pirate Bay has been blocked at the behest of movie studios and other copyright holders any number of times, to little effect. Every time it is blocked, some helpful soul sets up a proxy which bypasses the block. (This has led the UK down a rabbit hole of blocking the proxies, and them blocking the sites which list the proxies, and then blocking the sites which list the sites which list the proxies, and then blocking the sites which list the sites which list the sites which list the proxies ... )

Update: The second half of this post is wrong. Just ignore it.

And if you think that sounds ridiculous then just wait.

Here's a key detail the FT missed: there was no need for the PA to get an order from the High Court to block those sites.

The fun thing about the UK is that the gov't maintains a list of sites to block.  Originally that list was supposed to be limited to child pornography, criminal activities, and other terrible things, but now that list has grown to include sites which have even a tertiary link to piracy (see the links above) or even sites with no connection to any crime or infringement whatsoever.

The UK Publisher Association could have had those sites blocked just by getting them placed on the appropriate list. There was no need to get a court order.

To put it simply, this whole story is pageantry, pure and simple. It serves absolutely no purpose other than to put on a show.

image by pasukaru76

About Nate Hoffelder (11227 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

2 Comments on UK Publishers Waste Time, Money to Get Court Order to Fight Piracy by Blocking Search Engines

  1. eBookee is a link site. However, because of the site’s loose rules, software, music, and others get in the way.
    AvaxHome is also a link site. Software, music, graphics, etc. can also be found there. Its search engine is located in another domain.
    Freshwap is a link site too, but general-purpose. Most of the posters there post on other similar sites.
    FreeBookSpot is solely an eBook and audiobook link site. Its sister site is a magazine link site.
    LibGen (Library Genesis) is a direct link site that also offers TONS of books, comics, and standards.
    Ditto with Bookfi, but without the comics.
    BookRe[eader] is a search engine that has Bookfi download links, but does not host its own content.


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