Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hackers retaliate as Dutch ISPs told to block Pirate Bay

A Dutch court has ordered two ISPs in that country to block their customers' access to The Pirate Bay, a site often used for copyright-infringing activities.

On Wednesday, the Hague district court told the ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL that they have to block the site within 10 days or face a €10,000 (£8,315) fine each day that access remains possible. The action against the ISPs was brought by Brein, the Netherlands' rights-holder group.

Following the verdict, it appears that hackers claiming to be part of Anonymous have used a denial-of-service attack to make Brein's own site inaccessible.

XS4ALL said the order represented a "fundamental infringement of freedom of information", and vowed to appeal. Brein said it would seek further orders targeting other ISPs as well.

"We are stunned by the verdict. This is a black day for the free Internet," XS4ALL director Theo de Vries said. "I see this as a bow to the entertainment industry: the commercial interests of a few large companies are more important than the rights of Dutch citizens."

The case has been running for years, and has strong echoes of the Newzbin/Newzbin2 case in the UK. In both battles, rights-holders went after the allegedly infringing site first. With Newzbin, the site's proprietors moved offshore to avoid a UK ban on its infringing activities.

In the Dutch Pirate Bay case, the site — already located in another country — was ordered in 2009 to stop letting people in the Netherlands access it. That order was ignored so, as in the case of Newzbin, Brein went for the ISPs instead.

Site-blocking has also been ordered in France, Denmark and Italy. This kind of order is to be thesubject of scrutiny this year at the European Commission, along with the issue of website takedown requests. Existing EU e-commerce regulations forbid courts from ordering ISPs to generally monitor web traffic for peer-to-peer (P2P) activity, but they do allow national courts to impose site-blocking orders.

The Commission said on Wednesday that it would try to clarify the rules, as several stakeholders had complained they were excessively open to interpretation.

On a probably related note, Brein's website is, at the time of writing, inaccessible. Someone purporting to represent the hacker group Anonymous has posted a message calling for denial-of-service attacks against Brein.

Similar attacks appear to have brought down the site of the Finnish rights-holder group CIAPC earlier this week, again in response to courts ordering an ISP (Elisa in this case) to block access to The Pirate Bay.

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