Today, two of Belgium’s biggest operators, Telenet and Belgacom, got a court order to block the website ThePirateBay.org, and about 20 alternative URL’s to the same site. The court ordered them to do a DNS-level block of the domain names, which is easy to circumvent. I’m writing this post because I’m against censorship on the internet (this sets a dangerous precedent), not because I’m in favor of copyright infringement or other illegal activities.
Update: In a bold move to demonstrate how silly this kind of censorship is, The Pirate Bay is now also reachable at www.depiraatbaai.be. Update 2: That domain seems to be blocked in Belgium now too. In the end, this is just a cat and mouse game that no ISP or government can win, and this proves once again that restricting access to sites is not the way forward.
Even if SABAM would persist and ask an IP-based block of TPB (thus rendering the method describe in this article obsolete) there are thousands of other proxy sites. Check out https://piratereverse.info/ for example, and find tips on how to set up your own proxy (which -as far as I know – is legal)
An up to date list can always be found at : http://proxybay.info/
Other sites are
The list goes on and on… (over 100 mirrors at the time of writing)
The method in this article can still be used to be able to access the bay from the old URL and prevent further blocks – switching your DNS away from your default provider is something worth trying. It won’t always work, but is a working solution for most of the countries that block the bay.
What is DNS?
DNS stands for Domain Name System (wikipedia). It’s a system that translates human-readable website addresses into numerical identifiers which can be used by your computer. For example, “http://www.google.be” points to “22.214.171.124″. Which of those two is easier to remember for you?
When your system wants to translate a website-adress into a numerical identifier, it contacts a DNS Server, which is basicly just a big table with all the translations in it. This is usually provided by your ISP, and will be the default one if you haven’t made any changes to your internet settings. For Telenet, these DNS servers look like: 195.130.X.X, for Belgacom, they are situated in the 195.238.X.X range.
What the recent court ruling forces the Belgian ISP’s to do (at risk of a hefty fine), is to simply stop answering to any requests for certain domains (e.g. ThePiratebay). This crude drawing demonstrates it. They may stop answering, or redirect the user to a page which explains why the site cannot be reached anymore.
How do I know whether or not the access is blocked?
As of today, Belgacom and Telenet serve this page when trying to access http://www.thepiratebay.org:
Choosing a different DNS Server
So that’s it then? Wrong! As an internet user, you are free to pick a different DNS server. In Layman’s terms: you are free to choose who translates your human-readable URL’s into numerical identifiers! There are tons of alternative DNS servers available, and during the last years, more and more people have started using them, for various reasons:
- To circumvent censorship (our case, but also in countries with restrictive information policies like like China, Korea …)
- Better security (some DNS servers are quicker in blocking URL’s which contain malware)
- Faster response times
Configuring your system/network to use a different DNS Server
The good news is that configuring your system to use a different DNS server is not hard at all. If you don’t like it, you can easily revert the procedure. Don’t be afraid because of the semi-technical mumbo-jumbo above, it’s a lot easier than it sounds All you need is the IP address for the new DNS service. Most services offer a primary and a secondary address (which is used if the first address cannot be reached). For the two main alternatives, these are:
- OpenDNS: 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52
- GoogleDNS: 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11
- Per-computer-basis: I happily refer to the excellent documentation on the OpenDNS website. They have guides for every flavor of Windows, Mac or Linux.
- Network basis: Check your network router’s manual. Usually, you can browse to a local address like 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.2.1, log in using admin username and password, and then configure the DNS settings. Again, the OpenDNS website has an excellent guide for every modern router.
Am I breaking the law now?
I’m not a lawyer, but as far as I know (and do correct me on this in the comments if I’m wrong), there’s nothing illegal about using an alternative DNS server.
Anything else I can do?
Demand a free and open internet, before it’s too late. Be vocal about it. Write to your ISP (Telenet contact and Belgacom contact) and your politicians. Support the EFF and/or your local Pirate Party (for Belgium: http://pirateparty.be/)