Thanks to rights owners, Portuguese Internet service providers have received another batch of “pirate” domain notifications from the authorities. The recently accepted voluntary anti-piracy agreement makes the ISPs to implement a full subscriber blockade until November 13, thus making the country close to the status of the world leader in pirate blocking.
This past summer, the local Ministry of Culture announced the signing of a memorandum between the ISPs and copyright owners, which laid out the framework for a voluntary website-blocking mechanism. The latter would allow to quickly block websites that have over 500 infringing links and whose indexes contain more than 66% infringing content. After the worldwide leader of piracy, The Pirate Bay, was blocked in the country in March 2015, the new process paved the way for rapid website blocking. As a result, the first batch of complaints was quickly processed.
Back in October, Portugal blocked over 50 websites (including us) without a court order. Now it is preparing its second wave of blockades, mostly against torrent sites, “release blog” favorites and streaming services (both video and audio). Although website blocking is a common thing around the world, the way it’s being carried out in Portugal may raise some concern.
Given that the blocking process is voluntary, there’s no unwieldy court process to navigate, which is a good thing for the Portuguese anti-piracy outfit. Nevertheless, there are opinions that the new process is too streamlined and that judicial oversight is required to avoid an abuse. They also raised questions over the legality of the scheme.
Another concern is focused on the sheer number of websites that could end up on the blocklist. At the moment, copyright owners can only file 2 complaints with the government per month, but each of them can contain up to 50 domains. In other words, that if all sites are deemed infringing and the anti-piracy outfit works to capacity, over 1,200 allegedly infringing websites could be blocked by this time in 2016. Such rates would make Portugal the world leader in site blocking. This would be a clear example of what the entertainment industry could aim for by bypassing the courts.
Nevertheless, VPNs used by Portuguese internet users to access foreign BitTorrent websites, music download and video streaming websites, will not be affected. With VPN for torrenting, Portuguese users are able to replace IP address with IP address of VPN server located in another country or region. This trick allows users to hide online identity on the internet, overcome online censorship in Portugal and access any file sharing website in Portugal without any risk.