It is not the role of telcos to "police the internet", Spark says as Sky TV asks the country's internet providers to block access to websites which infringe on its copyright content.

The pay television provider has submitted a letter to the country's major internet service providers (ISPs) asking them to block access to certain pirate websites, which it hopes to file to the High Court shortly.

Spark said in a statement that the company understood the desire of content owners to protect their legal position when it came to copyright of content.

"We have some sympathy for this given we invest tens of millions of dollars into content ourselves through Lightbox. However, we don't think it should be the role of ISPs to become the 'police of the internet' on behalf of other parties," the Spark statement said.


"The only exception we have made to date on this is the Internal Affairs Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System, which blocks websites that host child sexual abuse images - and clear instances of phishing. In both of these cases we act due to the substantial harm caused by such activities."

Vocus Group, which runs Orcon, Slingshot and Flip, has labelled Sky's proposal "gross censorship and a breach of net neutrality".

"Sky, via its lawyers, requested that the TV company pick and choose the websites Kiwis can access via Spark, Vocus, Vodafone and 2degrees networks," Vocus consumer general manager Taryn Hamilton said.

"The request is in direct opposition to the idea that the internet is a free and open resource which should be accessed without censorship."

A spokeswoman for Sky, however, said the pay TV operator wasn't making "censorship" call itself. It said Vocus was misrepresenting the situation.

"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 said.

"We are talking about websites that are designed for no other purpose than to illegally pirate content. This is 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 we're attempting censorship are nonsense, and demonstrate that Vocus is out of touch with what is happening around the world – not to mention that they seem to be wanting to align their brand with pirates who steal content."


Sky has sent draft court documents to Spark, Vodafone, Vocus and 2degrees that it intends to file with the High Court and would seek orders that internet companies block access to certain websites within 10 days.

The websites are not named in the documents.

"Sky has paid the films' copyright owners substantial amounts for the exclusive right to show the films in New Zealand on television, computers and other devices," the document says.

"The respondents are telecommunications companies who offer internet services to the public. Together, the ISPs account for around 90 per cent of all internet service accounts in New Zealand. By accessing the internet using accounts provided by the ISPs, users can access [the target websites]."

Vocus alludes to torrent site the Pirate Bay, which it said was being accessed by far fewer New Zealanders since the introduction of pay services like Netflix, iTunes and Spotify.

Vocus Group consumer general manager Taryn Hamilton says Sky is behaving like a dinosaur. Photo / File
Vocus Group consumer general manager Taryn Hamilton says Sky is behaving like a dinosaur. Photo / File

"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. It isn't our job to police the internet and it sure as hell isn't Sky's either. All sites should be equal and open," Hamilton said.

"The fact that Sky has made this request to New Zealand's main telco providers in this day and age is frankly astounding."