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Legal move could cut website users
A legal move to try to block online access to the world's largest illegal file-sharing website could stop thousands of people using it, if it follows the pattern of similar schemes in Europe.
Earlier this week, the High Court ordered five of the biggest UK internet service providers (ISPs) - Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media - to block access to The Pirate Bay after music industry body the BPI took legal action.
The Pirate Bay is the world's largest BitTorrent site, enabling and encouraging the mass illegal distribution of copyrighted content, including music, movies, TV programmes, games and publications.
Statistics released by music industry body the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) show the site had around 800,000 users in Italy before it was blocked in February 2010.
That fell to fewer than 200,000 users after the blocking move. Others countries that blocked access to the site include Belgium and the Netherlands, which saw use decline by 60% and 25% respectively.
IFPI CEO Frances Moore said: "There have been a number of similar blocking actions involving the Pirate Bay around Europe, and the impact of these appears to have been sustained over time. Of course, this doesn't mean that website blocking is a complete solution to online piracy. It needs to be part of a package of actions that ensures the problem isn't just displaced from one channel to another."
A spokeswoman for Virgin Media has confirmed it was implementing the order and the other firms said they expected to make similar moves soon.
It comes after a ruling by Mr Justice Arnold in February that the operators and users of the website infringe the copyright of music companies.
However, the director of Big Brother Watch, Nick Pickles, said web blocking was "a crude tool" and would not stop "determined users", and Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said the move was "pointless and dangerous" and would turn "criminals into heroes".
The people behind The Pirate Bay said they will "stand united" against any bid to block access to their site. A message on their blog said the move was an attempt by the music business to "squeeze" it out of the market and advised users to "circumvent the block" and campaign against the move.