For more than a decade copyright holders of all kinds have approached the UK High Court with applications for website blocking injunctions.
Applicants have included entities such as the BPI (representing the major music labels) and the MPA (movies and TV shows). Over time, these groups have expanded to include organizations such as the Premier League and similar live sports broadcasters, who in the main seek to have pirate IPTV-type operations blocked by the countries leading ISPs.
In 2015, The Publishers Association, a UK organization supporting members producing digital and print books, research journals and educational resources, broke new ground by becoming the first entity in the UK to use Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to obtain blocking measures.
The successful High Court application resulted in an injunction requiring BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and EE to block domains associated with several ebook-related platforms including LibGen, Ebookee, Freshwap, AvaxHome, Bookfi, Bookre and Freebookspot.
The Publishers Association Seeks to Limit Workarounds
In November 2015, the blocking list was expanded to another 16 domains, many of which were deployed by proxy-type services designed to limit the effects of the High Court injunction. Until recently, there had been no public sign to suggest that The Publishers Association intended to take things further.
That position changed in August when TalkTalk, one of the ISPs affected by the original injunction and subsequent update, reported that it had been ordered to block a new domain, libgen.unblockit.uno, a subdomain of the unblocking platform Unblockit, that grants access to Libgen (Library Genesis).
Then this week, TalkTalk published another update which suggests that from this Friday (September 10) it will be blocking yet more domains that at least in part seek to provide access to both Libgen and Ebookee when their main domains are blocked by ISPs. They read as follows:
ebookee.unblockit.ch, ebookee.nocensor.work, ebookee.123unblock.me, ebookee.mrunblock.casa, ebookee.unbl4you.club, ebookee.unbl0ck.cyou, ebookee.unblockproject.monster, ebookee.proxybit.me, libgen.unblockit.ch, libgen.nocensor.work, libgen.123unblock.me, libgen.mrunblock.casa, libgen.unbl4you.club, libgen.unbl0ck.cyou, libgen.unblockproject.monster, libgen.proxybit.me, libgen.unblockit.uno
Domain Blocks Risk Becoming Outdated
Since the original Publishers Association injunction is six years old already, it’s unclear what type of anticipatory measures were built in from the start. More recent injunctions include options to dynamically adapt to superficial domain and IP address changes that seek to mitigate their effects but if these are not present in the Publishers Association case, they may already be drifting out of date.
Unblockit.uno and unblockit.ch, for example, appear to have switched to unblockit.ws, a domain that isn’t listed in the TalkTalk blocking list. The problem is only compounded when visitors to that domain find a list to a whole range of other ebook download sites including Sci-Hub, DownloadBooks, Ebook777, BookSC, ZLibrary and Ebook3000, among others.
Publishing Anti-Piracy Groups Remain Active
While The Publishers Association has yet to publicly chase down ebook pirates themselves, there is no shortage of action by similar groups elsewhere. Late last week, Danish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance reported that a 28-year-old former student had been charged with distributing illegal copies of textbooks via several online platforms over a two-year period.
In addition, huge pressure is being applied to Alexandra Elbakyan, the now-infamous operator of Sci-Hub. The site celebrated its 10th anniversary this week by uploading an additional 2.3m papers to its archives but is also facing legal problems on multiple fronts, including what is already an important case in India.
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