Iceland has ordered two of its major internet providers, including Vodafone, to block access to the Pirate Bay torrent website. This is the first copyright-related ban in the country known for its strong opposition to censorship.
The Reykjavik District Court handed down an injunction on Thursday telling Vodafone and Hringdu – another major internet service provider (ISP) – to blacklist file-sharing websites like the Pirate Bay and Deildu, Iceland’s largest private torrent site.
They are the first ISPs in the country to be hit with such copyright website bans, according to Torrentfreak.com.
The ruling resulted from a long effort by music rights groups like the Recording Industry Association of America (and its Icelandic counterpart STEF) and the Motion Picture Association of America (SMAIS in Iceland), which sought to punish file sharing groups.
As part of an anti-piracy campaign, STEF reported the operators of the Pirate Bay to the Icelandic police in 2013 but to no effect. They adopted a technique used by copyright holders in other countries and demanded local ISPs to block not just the Pirate Bay, but also Deildu.
“We will never reach a final victory in the battle so it makes sense for people to realize that it’s likely that new sites will spring up. However, following similar actions abroad, visitors’ numbers to such sites have declined significantly,” Gudrun Bjork Bjarnadottir, director of policy at STEF, told local media after the court’s decision.
The move came as a surprise to some, as Iceland has a long-standing tradition of protecting the freedom of expression, which has recently been projected to virtual space. However, the country modified its Copyright Act in 2010, allowing for authorized injunctions against intermediaries.
“This action doesn’t go against freedom of expression as it aims to prevent copyright infringement and protect the rights and income of authors, artists and producers,” the rights holders insisted.
Neither of the ISPs has yet indicated that they will submit an appeal to the Supreme Court, though Hringdu said the Court ruling runs counter to its company policy.
“It is clear that [the ruling] is not in harmony with Hringdu’s policy regarding net freedom,” director Kirstinn Petursson told Visir. “The company has placed great emphasis on the idea that our customers should have unrestricted access to the internet.”
Meanwhile, Deildu responded to the decision by quickly switching to a new domain – Iceland.pm
The Pirate Bay, which typically ignores (and at times ridicules) copyright claims and related court rulings, still had quite a journey [http://rt.com/news/pirate-bay-returns-sweden-504/ ] last year, as it was forced to switch domains seven times due to court orders. It eventually returned to Swedish domain .se, where, despite legal threats, the torrent site has remained safe up to this date.
In September, however, it was reported that the Pirate Bay now has 21 “virtual machines” (VMs) scattered around the globe with cloud-hosting providers. The cloud technology is said to have made the site more portable, eliminated the need for any crucial pieces of hardware, and therefore made the torrent site harder to take down.