1. Executive summary
The Secretary of State has asked Ofcom to consider a number of questions related tothe blocking of sites to reduce online copyright infringement.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has asked Ofcom to report on certain technicalmatters relating to sections 17 and 18 of the Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA). Sections 17 and 18provide the Secretary of State with the power to grant the Courts the ability to require serviceproviders, including internet service providers (ISPs) and other intermediaries, to prohibit access tosites on the internet that are found to be infringing copyright.Specifically, we have been asked to consider the following questions:
Is it possible for internet service providers to block site access?
Do sections 17 and 18 of the Act provide an effective and appropriate method of generating listsof sites to be blocked?
How robust would such a block be
in other words, would it have the intended effect, and howeasy would it be to circumvent for most site operators?
What measures might be adopted by internet service providers to prevent such circumvention?
Can specific parts of web sites be blocked, how precise can this be, and how effective?
There are several techniques available for blocking access to internet sites
We have focused on four currently-available techniques that ISPs could use within their networkinfrastructure to block sites (we refer to them as primary techniques).
Internet Protocol (IP) address blocking
: modifying ISP network equipment to discard internettraffic destined for the blocked site. An IP address is analogous to a telephone number as ituniquely identifies a device attached to the internet. An example IP address is the Ofcom website22.214.171.124.
Blocking via Domain Name System (DNS) alteration:
changing the ISP service that translatesdomain names e.g. www.example.com into IP addresses e.g. 126.96.36.199. The ISP DNS server,when blocking, tells the requesting computer or device that the site does not exist or redirects therequest to an informational web page, for example one which explains why access to the site hasbeen blocked.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL) blocking:
the blocking of specific items, such as web sites oraddresses e.g.http://www.example.com/pirate.zip.ISPs already block URLs (supplied by the
Internet Watch Foundation) that link to web content relating to child sexual abuse.
blocking techniques which examine network traffic either at a high level,(Shallow Packet Inspection (SPI)), or more detailed level (Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)).We also consider three hybrid options:1. DNS blocking coupled with shallow packet inspection;2. DNS blocking coupled with URL blocking; and3. DNS blocking coupled with deep packet inspection.We have assessed each of the techniques against seven criteria: speed of implementation; cost;blocking effectiveness; difficulty of circumvention; ease of administrative or judicial process; theintegrity of network performance; and the impact of the block on legitimate services. A summary ofour findings is illustrated below in Tables 1 and 2.