Sky TV accused of trying to censor the internet

Sky TV has been accused of censorship over its attempt to block pirating websites.

Vocus Group, a telecommunications company that runs Orcon, Slingshot and Flip, says Sky has breached 'net neutrality' by demanding that broadband providers block access to selected websites.

Sky has written up an application for a 'site blocking injunction' to Auckland High Court, in an effort to stop online piracy. It would name websites that host pirated content, such as streaming sites, and internet providers would be asked to block access to those sites.

Sky's lawyers requested that Vocus choose which websites Kiwis can access via Spark, Vocus, Vodafone and 2Degrees networks - meaning some sites would be blocked.

A Sky TV spokeswoman says New Zealand is lagging behind in anti-piracy measures to give content creators legal protection. She says 42 countries around the world already have similar laws in place.

She denies that Sky is "taking it upon ourselves to make censorship calls".

"We are proposing to follow a thorough and careful legal process, which involves seeking a court order under the copyright act that requires ISPs to block specified infringing sites," she says.

"It's not about a 'breach of equality and freedom of information', it's about calling out pirate sites who pay nothing to the creators of movies, TV and sport content and simply steal it for their own gain."

Vocus claims that blocking certain websites from broadband users won't stop piracy, and that Sky's demands contradict the nature of the Internet as a free and open source.

"Sky's call that sites be blacklisted on their say-so is dinosaur behaviour, something you would expect in North Korea, not in New Zealand," Vocus consumer general manager Taryn Hamilton says.

Mr Hamilton says Netflix has quickly become New Zealand's largest content provider, proving that creating monetised sources of quality online content is the best method to defeat piracy.

Lobby group InternetNZ called Sky's demand an "extreme step in response to a problem of limited scale". Chief Jordan Carter says the group is investigating to see whether or not the High Court could actually order a block.

"Site blocking works against the very nature of the Internet. Site blocking is very easily evaded by people with the right skills or tools," Mr Carter says.

"If blocking is ordered, it risks driving content piracy further underground."