Irish ISP UPC temporarily blocks The Pirate Bay

Pirate flag The ban was imposed without warning

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Confused customers of Irish internet service provider (ISP) UPC are asking whether it is planning to block access to The Pirate Bay file-sharing website.

UPC users linking to the BitTorrent site on Monday and Tuesday saw a notice saying it had been blocked as the result of a court order from the Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma).

That notice has since been removed and UPC insists no such court order exists.

The message had been the result of routine network testing, it said.

UPC won a court victory over Irma in 2010 after refusing to implement a three-strikes scheme that required ISPs to send warning letters threatening disconnection to those identified as illegal downloaders.

But on Monday and Tuesday UPC users saw the following warning: "The Pirate Bay has been blocked. The website you are trying to reach is currently unavailable. Further to a request from Irma, the Irish courts have ordered UPC to block access to The Pirate Bay website."

A later statement from UPC contradicted its own notice.

"UPC Ireland's position has not changed. UPC is not required by any court or authority to block The Pirate Bay and does not intend to voluntarily block The Pirate Bay," it said.

"Periodically testing is carried out across our European network, which may have been observed by Irish customers."

The BBC also contacted the Irma, but it would not say whether or not it had begun court proceedings against UPC.

"You will have to speak to UPC," a spokeswoman said.

Mixed evidence

Copyright holders around the world are moving the fight against piracy away from letter-writing campaigns to individual users in favour of website blocking.

In the UK, the major ISPs have already blocked access to The Pirate Bay.

The body representing British record labels, the BPI, is planning to ask UK ISPs to block three more file-sharing websites - Fenopy, H33t and Kickass Torrents.

Evidence about the success of such web blocks is mixed. According to figures from measurement firm Nielsen, traffic to The Pirate bay has dropped by three-quarters since courts ordered blocks in the UK.

But an ISP, which did not want to be named, told the BBC that overall illegal download traffic on its network recovered quickly within a week of its block.

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