Technology

Radio Times caught up in Premier League's piracy fight

Premier League game
Image caption The Premier League is attempting to prevent users visiting First Row Sports' feeds

Internet users have been prevented from accessing the Radio Times and hundreds of other websites as a result of the Premier League's battle with an unrelated copyright infringing site.

The accident occurred because the sites share an internet protocol address with First Row Sports, which offers unauthorised streams of football games.

Internet providers had been ordered to block the IP address.

The Premier League only became aware of the issue when the BBC contacted it.

The problem only occurred if users typed in "radiotimes.com" rather than the full "www.radiotimes.com" address, or likewise dropped the "www" ahead of the other sites affected.

The editor of the Radio Times expressed anger at the news.

"It's outrageous that our website has been suddenly switched off and our users wrongly informed that it's to protect against copyright infringement," said Ben Preston.

"The Premier League seems to be behaving like the worst sort of blundering striker who's forgotten the first rule of football - check you're at the right end before you shoot."

The football body said it was "urgently" looking into the matter and stressed that it had not meant to block other sites.

Blocked sites

The High Court has ordered ISPs to prevent access to a growing number of sites including The Pirate Bay, EZTV, Fenopy, and Newzbin2 after rights-holders complained of copyright infringement.

Image caption The Radio Times said that the Premier League's action was "outrageous"

Last month the Premier League added First Row Sports to that list - a Swedish-based site offering video streams to football games from around the world.

The way the system works is that the rights-holders are responsible for identifying which IP addresses are being used and then sending the details to the ISPs.

The court specifically said that ISPs are "wholly reliant" on the rights-holders "accurately identifying" which IPs should be blocked and had "no obligation" to check them themselves.

In addition to Radio Times, several football clubs - including Blackburn Rovers, Reading and Brentford - as well as the Notes from Nature science project and Galaxy Zoo space education site have been affected.

Virgin Media confirmed its subscribers had flagged the issue last week - following discussion about it on the Thinkbroadband forums - and added it had taken action to rectify the problem.

"As a responsible ISP we obey court orders when addressed to the company," said a spokesman.

"However, we do not believe the instruction to block this particular IP address meets the criteria of the court order against First Row Sports so we have stopped blocking it and are writing to the Premier League."

Virgin acknowledged this meant that in some cases users might be able to access First Row Sports again.

BT added it was taking similar action.

"Under the terms of the court order to block First Row Sports, it is the Premier League's responsibility to provide BT with IP addresses to block that relate only to First Row Sports," a spokesman said.

"The Premier League is currently looking into whether the IP addresses provided to BT included any IP addresses that related to radiotimes.com. BT has suspended blocking of the IP addresses in question in the meantime".

Image caption Visitors who did not type in Blackburn Rovers' full web address have also been affected

Telefonica - which has sold the Be Unlimited network to Sky, but continues to run the operation - said it had also unblocked the IP address, but planned to use another way to prevent subscribers accessing The First Row site.

"We anticipate that this will be actioned shortly," added a spokesman.

BSkyB added that it had already unblocked the IP address for subscribers to its Sky Broadband network and had discussed the issue with the Premier League.

TalkTalk said it was not aware of the problem.

'Respect the rulings'

The Premier League said it had never intended legitimate sites to be affected. But it also expressed concern at the idea that the ISPs were taking unilateral action.

"The court order that requires internet service providers to block this website clearly states that any issues they have in implementing the block must be raised with the Premier League before taking any further action," said a spokesman.

"This is the first we have heard of this issue and are looking into it as a matter of urgency.

"The fact remains that the High Court has ordered an injunction requiring ISPs to block First Row Sports and we will continue to implement it and expect the ISPs to respect the ruling."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites