Yesterday, the first practical application of Australia’s site-blocking laws was used to block websites apparently used for illegitimate file sharing of copyrighted materials. The block, which will be implemented within a fortnight by some of Australia’s largest ISPs, will prevent Australian users from accessing the sites. In theory, this is a big win for the country’s rightsholders. In practice, it is ridiculously easy to get around any block that could be implemented, illustrating how inadequate and poorly conceived the government’s site-blocking legislation is.
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It’s worth mentioning to start that it’s entirely legal to download torrents. It’s popularly used to distribute free software like Linux distros and GIMP. As a protocol, there’s nothing illicit or at all dubious about how peer-to-peer file sharing works; it’s no different to the HTTP and FTP that Despite that, ‘torrenting’ has been given a bad name eqaully by both the people that use the service to download Game of Thrones and Westworld and pirated games, and the rightsholders that loudly push the message that any torrenting is illegal.
The ISPs named in the case have a variety of different methods at their disposal — which they can choose their preference of — to block their Australian customers from accessing five file sharing or video streaming websites: Torrentz, The Pirate Bay, TorrentHound, SolarMovie and IsoHunt. DNS blocking, IP address blocking, and URL blocking are all options for ISPs to implement, and they’re all equally simple for any remotely tech-savvy person to work around.
Any ISP-level DNS block can be solved by plugging Google’s worldwide 188.8.131.52 DNS or any of a host of other free DNS resolution services, all of which will allow your PC and browser to navigate directly to any site blocked by your local internet service provider. Any IP address block can be worked around by using a proxy like Tor or even Google Translate. Any URL block can be worked around just by Googling for the IP address of the site in question and entering that into the address bar instead.
Simply logging into a VPN — whether it’s a paid subscription or one of the many free options — solves any and all blocks that could be implemented by Australia’s ISPs and mandated by any court order. It’s impossible for a simple block to be put in place that serves as more than a mere moment’s deterrence for any vaguely motivated individual.