Fast: 'Ban them from any internet use'

Fast: 'Ban them from any internet use'

Summary: John Lovelock, the head of the Federation Against Software Theft, explains why ISPs should ban those accused of illegal file-sharing

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TOPICS: Networking
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Following recent comments by a government official suggesting that legislation may be needed to force internet service providers into a crackdown on unauthorised file-sharing, the Federation Against Software Theft contacted ZDNet.co.uk to put its case across.

In an interview on Monday — based largely on readers' submitted questions — Fast chief John Lovelock denied that he wanted to target small-time file-sharers of copyrighted material, but insisted that it should be possible to ban serious offenders from any internet usage without having to go through the courts.

Q: What is Fast's reaction to Lord Triesman's comments?
A: Before Lord Triesman got involved with it, there was Andrew Gowers. In his recommendations last year [he called for] an industry agreement on protocols regarding sharing data between ISPs [internet service providers] and rights holders. He said that, if this had not proved successful by the end of 2007, then the government should be prepared to legislate.

We've run a couple of operations where we've gone out to the P2P file-share networks, looking for our members' software being made available. In the first operation we found about 135 people making our members' software available to share for free. From there we had to go to court and get a court order because they were individuals. Obviously the court had to be satisfied that we had evidence to prove the full file was available. We had to download screen-grabs and use an atomic clock to demonstrate the time of day, so we could go to the ISP with the IP address, so they could search their logs and tell us it was "Joe Soap".

Then we wrote to these people saying: "You've been found guilty" — sorry — "Evidence has been found of you file-sharing software which you don't have the right to do in terms of the licence agreement. So we'd like you to pay up for the software, contribute to the costs and say you won't do it again." Some [agreed], some didn't — so we gave them another opportunity to do so. Eventually we took one person to court and got a summary judgement. They just didn't turn up [in court], so they were found guilty in absentia and the judge awarded us £3,500.

To go through the courts and get a court order against the ISPs to give information on people performing illegal activities is an awfully long-winded, archaic and very expensive way of protecting people's intellectual property

John Lovelock, Fast

To go to so much trouble, go through the courts and get a court order against the ISPs to give information on people performing illegal activities is an awfully long-winded, archaic and very expensive way of protecting people's intellectual property. So what Gowers said is that the ISPs should work closer with the rights holders to make a simpler methodology to track down people using the networks for illegal activity and either bargain or give details to agencies and stop them doing it.

As one of our readers pointed out, copyright infringement is a civil issue rather than criminal — surely you should have to go through the courts?
If we want to take action against individuals, you are right. But we would prefer to collaborate with ISPs. I think where it can be demonstrated to the ISPs that there is evidence which would be admissible in a court of law, but [rights holders' representatives] are happy to provide it to you as a service provider to demonstrate that Joe Soap is using your network for illegal activity, we would ask you to ban him from using your internet connections.

If there's evidence of that person then joining another ISP and then taking up again, we would go to that ISP and say: "Here's the evidence and we don't think they should be allowed to use your network."

Are you arguing that Fast should be legislated to have a right to ban?
Not us at all. We would provide the same evidence we'd have to provide the courts. We would provide that evidence through bona fide forensics experts who would normally stand up in court. That evidence would be provided to the ISP's legal department. If it were child pornography, there would be no question at all about that person being barred…

But you are now talking about a criminal activity.
We wouldn't be taking legal action. All we'd be doing is providing evidence to the service provider that people are providing illegal activity, the same as with a car boot sale where Trading Standards might go to the organisers [to make them aware of illegal goods being sold there].

Is it actually practicable to ban someone from using the internet?
I don't know. That's a proposal or thought that I'm sure can be built on, like anything you brainstorm. The whole of...

Topic: Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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3 comments
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  • All judges are fired!

    Who do they think they are? What do they propose - the practice to replace the court in civil law application? Some "sponsored association" provides some "evidences" ("Hey I have 3 friends who saw it!") to the other business actor that performs some actions by denying someones rights? No more courts, no more possibility to defense, no more evidence evaluation, no jury (who the hell invented these stupid practices?). Just one business man denyes civil rights of other person. Fast.
    razer-a3f6a
  • Not so FAST

    Fast has a poor reputation and represents few interests.
    http://www.itweek.co.uk/itweek/news/2159547/complaints-catch-fast-anti

    But no-one should be given extra judicial powers not available to the rest of society and exposing ISP's to liability (common carriers), by-passing the judicial and other remedies already open to them based upon an unspecified and in fact absent evidence of economic damage.

    An economic case can be made against tighter copyright control and FAST has not even made a case as to why it should be given extraordinary control over the publics use of the internet.

    Societies interests do not coincide with that of FAST members especially when it comes to circumventing fundamental civil rights and freedoms.


    Civil remedies and other remedies exist and special interest groups like FAST avail themselves of them, like the rest of society.


    Question: What is Fast's reaction to Lord Triesman's comments?
    Fast should use the civil law to gain redress like everyone else. FAST are not be a special case.

    One summary judgment does not make every case default to conviction and punishment as nominated by the plaintive.

    Question: As one of our readers pointed out, copyright infringement is a civil issue rather than criminal
    D Tomlinson
  • Ban businesses as well

    I agree as long as we ban any business from ever trading again, that has committed any wrong doing. It would be interesting to see how many members of FAST, RIAA, would be left trading.
    mark.manning@...