Can ISPs police illegal P2P downloads?

Can ISPs police illegal P2P downloads?

Summary: A Belgium court ruled that ISPs have to take steps to thwart peer-to-peer networks and piracy. Good luck delivering on that one.

TOPICS: Networking

A Belgium court ruled that ISPs have to take steps to thwart peer-to-peer networks and piracy. Good luck delivering on that one.

The ruling could be significant since it sets a precedent in the European Union, but there are a few nuts and bolts to figure out on the technology side.

How exactly will an ISP turn these P2P networks off? How many customers will be alienated? And TorrentFreak raises the biggest question of all: How will an ISP determine a legal packet of data from one that infringes on a copyright? I don't have the answers ready, but that's OK--rest assured the Belgium court doesn't either. It's presently unclear how this ISP (Scarlet) is going to conform to the court's ruling in six months. Sure a network provider can prioritize packets--say a large video file vs. a Word doc--but it not clear whether data can be examined en route.

Predictably the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) "warmly welcomed" that ruling. The IFPI statement comes a day after the group noted that music sales are getting hammered by piracy.

Here's the IFPI's take:

A court in Belgium has confirmed that an Internet Service Provider must take responsibility for stopping illegal file-sharing on its network. The ruling is the first of its kind in Europe and, since it implements EU legislation, it sets an important precedent in the fight against piracy internationally.

The judgment is warmly welcomed by the international recording industry, which has been pressing for action by ISPs to curb piracy on their networks.

The judge said that ISPs have the technical means at their disposal to either block or filter copyright-infringing material on P2P networks and gave the ISP Scarlet (formerly Tiscali) six months to implement such measures.

The judgment pointed in particular to the filtering technology developed by Audible Magic. It also referred to six other possible solutions to block the traffic of unlicensed music, which are highlighted in an experts’ report commissioned by the court. This is the first case in Europe that has examined in detail the technologies that are available to block or filter copyright-infringing traffic on file-sharing networks.

The Belgian court was ruling on a case brought by the body representing authors and composers in Belgium, SABAM, against the ISP Tiscali.

IFPI Chairman and CEO John Kennedy said: “This is an extremely significant ruling which bears out exactly what we have been saying for the last two years - that the internet’s gatekeepers, the ISPs, have a responsibility to help control copyright-infringing traffic on their networks. The court has confirmed that the ISPs have both a legal responsibility and the technical means to tackle piracy. This is a decision that we hope will set the mould for government policy and for courts in other countries in Europe and around the world.

But short of turning off access by all P2P sites it's unclear how this ruling will be carried out. Anyone out there have a clue how an ISP could examine every packet from a P2P network, check for copyright infringements and then pass it along?

Topic: Networking

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  • What is the cost?

    What is the cost that the customers are going to have to bear for this failure?

    Frankly, I am getting tired of paying extra for services to "protect" Big Businesses outdated business models and their "innovative ideas" that are plainly obvious.

    The legitimate customer gets hammered with all of these failed DRM, patent lawsuits, and protecting broken and outdated business models.

    This kind of garbage is exactly why I do not buy any music any more. You have lost a customer who bought music (probably for life). Just keep hammering customers with more burdensome costs. You will loose more.

    The reason for music sale decline has nothing to do with pirating and all to do with the limited resources of your customers. There are far better entertainment options that give far more bang for the buck. Movies and video games come immediately to mind.

    I bet that video games have been pirated as much in their history as music. Yet, the video game industry has growth every year.

    Make a poor product (like most music) and watch sales tank. It is that simple.
    • I concur with you 100%...

      When the DRM and suing started I completely stopped purchasing music (used to
      purchase three or more a month). In my music library I own tons of LPs and disks
      that I rarely if ever listen to; music I thought I couldn't live without; hah.

      Happily now my bank account has become much larger giving me more options for
      my entertainment; music is not one of them. A side note is I'm having more fun as
    • Amen

      Couldn't agree more, raise the price, I'll dump the RIAA. They have priced themselves out of the market. Time to move on to something that has Technology behind it. RIAA can't figure out how to take the money much less provide a service or product that works.
  • Making ISPs the Scapegoat

    The courts and software/music industries have failed to stop the illegal P2P users. So this is an act of desperation to try to hold somebody accountable. Its both impractical and, if enforced, would drive up the monthly ISP prices to accomodate.

    If criminals are driving illegal drugs or weapons from state to state, do we blame the State Highway Police for letting the transportation occur? Absolutely not. Why are they suppose to do, have a roadblock on every single road, inspecting every single car & truck? That's insane. Likewise, placing the responsibility on ISPs for illegal traffic on their highways is just an act of desperation.
    • High prices lead to illegal filesharing

      The outrageous prices for some software products, music and movies are what are driving illegal filesharing today. That and the obscenely poor quality of some off the softwares, music and movies available today.

      Personally, if I like something, I will buy it. But I don't want to buy something, open it, and then be refused to allow it to be returned because "You open it, you have to keep it while we keep your money!"

      The feds need to give people a right to return any music, movie, game or software application that does not meet their standards. Sure, we will have people who abuse that right..... but better for it to be abused by a few, than the majority to be screwed.
  • There Is A Solution For ISPs and P2P Liability - SafeMedia

    There is a solution to the contaminated P2P file sharing issue and our company SafeMedia, Inc. ( provides it. My name is Pasquale Giordano and I am the President of SafeMedia. Our Peer To Peer Disaggregator (P2PD) technology and Digital Internet Distribution Solution (DIDS).allows ISPs, businesses, and universities to stop contaminated P2P traffic uploads and downloads from their networks using our imbedded technology or easy to install network devices. The technology does not violate user privacy, because user activity and the contents of packets are never examined. In addition the integration of P2PD and DIDS technology creates a secure environment for the legal purchase and distribution of copyrighted digital material on any ISP infrastructure

    The court ruling requires that the ISP block all copyrighted materials being illegally transferred. While this is a valuable goal, it is next to impossible to accomplish, because it is easy to encrypt or compress pirated media for transfer and it would make it next to impossible for technology to detect protected materials. At the present time P2P software developers are implementing these capabilities in their tools to combat those types of technologies.

    Our technology on the other hand, cannot be circumvented. We monitor every contaminated P2P network available and are always able to stop contaminated P2P traffic rendering the contaminated P2P network useless. Some may criticize this, but It is important to follow the letter of the Law and disallow the small criminal minority that abuse the Internet and deny it?s benefits to all other.

    We provide a safe, easy to use and maintain solution that protects the value of digital copyrighted material while insuring user privacy is never compromised

    Pasquale Giordano
    SafeMedia, Inc.
    • *Yawn*

      What... no Mission Statement too?

      (I wonder how many times Pasquale has pasted this advertisement throughout the Blog world?)
    • If you don't open the packets

      How can you possibly identify bad material? BTW, from the 2-3 times I looked at The Pirate Bay, they don't actually have the files. The files are hosted on servers across the internet. Are you going to block all .torrents? If not, then how can you verify that a torrent is good or bad?

      Sounds a bit like snake oil to me.
      • It is snake oil

        It is snake oil that this company is spreading, and ZDNet should remove the post.

        There is no way that you can see what someone is sharing unless you can identify the packets. Actually, strike that, with torrents you cannot identify what is being shared until you have ALL the packets, because the name it is registered under could be an obfuscation.
  • ISP's can't block VPN's

    Even if an ISP blocks websites they can't block VPN's. There are hundreds of thousands of people using VPN's to connect to their workplace thru their ISP there is no way to stop or monitor this encrypted transfer of information. There are sites like who set up their vpn so that people can use it as an anonymous way to surf and download.

    If your isp blocks anything or shapes your downloads you can always use a VPN to make it so that they cant monitor where you go.