Report: Unauthorized UK Downloaders to be Cut Off

A recent report has many buzzing over the possibility that British ISP’s might start become the copyright police.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The report contains the following:

A draft consultation suggests internet service providers would be required to take action over users who access pirated material via their accounts.

But the government is stressing that plans are at an early stage and it is still working on final proposals.

The Times suggested that broadband firms which failed to enforce the rules could be prosecuted, and the details of customers suspected of making illegal downloads made available to the courts.

The above in particular has had some suggesting that the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in the United States at least protected ISPs from such a predicament and therefore, allowed for safe havens – particularly with newsgroups. Unfortunately, such thoughts may be a little premature given that many things in recent months have happened that put into question the safe harbor provisions.

Last month, Zeropaid reported on AT&T saying that they would filter the internet for unauthorized traffic. People like Tim Wu have wondered if the major telecom company which controls more than half the telephone lines across the United States. What safe harbor provisions? Either way, as ZeroPaid also reported, it had Verizon saying that they would simply not follow suit in such business practices.

Though while it may seem all voluntary in the United State over whether or not a provider chooses to utilize the safe harbor provisions, there is also a case going on that might tst the safe harbor provision yet. This case, which ZeroPaid also reported on, is the Warner vs. Seeqpod case has brought into question on how one could qualify for the safe harbor provisions in the first place. Among the complaints Warner had against the company, there was the following:

SeeqPod aims to capitalize on the illegal use of “free” music to grow its user base rapidly and inexpensively.

Almost sounds like half of all the ISP advertising features with the ideas of “fast downloading”, or, ‘getting music quickly’, or ‘fighting with slow connections’, etc. While the case has yet to be played out in the courts – and some suggest that it’ll likely fall back onto the Google vs. Perfect10 case – it is likely to be a case to potentially put the safe harbor provisions into question in the first place. Could UseNet providers be on the hook in the future? At this point, who knows?

Meanwhile, back in Britain, the report arrives on the heals of the U2 band manager saying that ISPs should employ a ‘three strike’ system for copyright infringement. It is currently unclear whether, as of the drafts current iteration which was only leaked and not officially released, this would consist of being kicked off of only one ISP or ending up being banned from all the British ISPs. As it stands right now, the current version is said to be taking the U2 suggestion and proposing to employ it at this point.

The report also continues with the following:

Technology that allows internet providers to monitor what content is being downloaded is becoming more effective, said James Bates, media director at consultants Deloitte.

There is no shortage of criticism over network filtering being effective by any stretch of the imagination. One of the criticisms of network level filtering came from the IIA (Internet Industry Association of Australia)

One thing is for sure, trying to make ISPs in Europe turn into the copyright police is nothing new. A Spanish music group tried and failed to force an ISP to divulge the identities of alleged copyright infringer’s in a manner similar to the United States.

Unfortunately, also last month, the Europe also proposed that ISPs should be the ones fighting copyright infringement over the internet. It seems as though that Britain may be the first to try and take the European Union up on their proposal.

Open Rights Group, and advocacy group for consumer rights in the digital world, were able to find get a few tidbits of the proposal:

“Users suspected of wrongly downloading films or music will receive a warning e-mail for the first offence, a suspension for the second infringement and the termination of their internet contract if caught a third time, under the most likely option to emerge from discussions about the new law.

“Broadband companies who fail to enforce the ‘three-strikes’ regime would be prosecuted and suspected customers’ details could be made available to the courts. The Government has yet to decide if information on offenders should be shared between ISPs.”

The Open Rights Group said, “Any serious move towards disconnecting offenders is likely to play havoc with the Government’s ambition to foster an e-enabled society.”

“What’s more, as soon as law enforcers start snooping for IP addresses to pass on to ISPs for disconnection,” said the group, “hardcore filesharers will simply start using encryption to obfuscate their identities. Then they’ll develop software that makes it easy for non-technical people to do the same. And then industry will be back to square one.”

One thing is for sure, things are bound to get interesting if any of these ideas are followed through.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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