Government hints at ISP file-sharing crackdown

Government hints at ISP file-sharing crackdown

Summary: An official has warned that legislation may follow if ISPs and rights holders fail to tackle file-sharing of copyrighted material voluntary

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TOPICS: Networking
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The UK government may crack down on ISPs over illegal file-sharing, a senior government official has suggested.

Speaking to the BBC, Lord Triesman — the parliamentary under-secretary for innovation, universities and skills — said it was likely that "there are going to be successful voluntary schemes between the creative industries and ISPs" over the issue. However, he added, a failure to reach such agreements could lead the government to legislate on the matter.

Many peer-to-peer (P2P) services are available which allow users to share any kind of file, and many of those are copyrighted material. ISPs in the UK have steadfastly maintained their standpoint that, because they do not host any of the material in question, they are not liable for it.

A statement on the website of the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) claims that ISPs cannot monitor or record the type of information passed over their network. "ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope," the statement adds. "ISPs deal with many more packets of data each day than postal services, and data-protection legislation actually prevents ISPs from looking at the content of the packets sent."

However, Triesman said on Wednesday that "where people have registered music as an intellectual property, I believe we will be able to match data banks of that music to music going out and being exchanged on the net". He clarified his statement by suggesting that the government was not intending to go after "14-year-olds who shared music" — reminiscent of the approach taken by music bosses in the US — but rather those who distributed other people's copyrighted material via P2P for profit.

Telecoms lawyer Danny Preiskel told ZDNet.co.uk on Thursday that he was not surprised by Triesman's comments. "There is a lot of lobbying from major rights holders," he said. "It is hugely important that ISPA and the industry stay very alert."

Preiskel added that the high-profile video site YouTube, which has come under fire for hosting copyrighted material, was bringing the issue to the fore. Despite the fact that ISPs are not connected with such services — or with P2P service providers — he warned that they may become "secondary targets" in the battle over intellectual property rights.

Got questions?

File-sharing: Any questions for FAST?

The Federation Against Software Theft is offering a chat with director general John Lovelock following government comments about a possible crackdown on ISPs over illegal file-sharing. What questions do you have for him?

Read more

In July the Conservative leader David Cameron made a speech in which he reasoned that, since ISPs were able to monitor their traffic for illegal material such as child pornography, there was no reason why they could not do the same for copyrighted material. Around the same time, a Belgian court ordered an ISP in that country, Scarlet, to do just that using systems from a company called Audible Magic. Scarlet has since appealed against the court's decision.

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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4 comments
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  • Your questions on this are needed!

    Right! Quick heads-up: the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) is offering us an interview with its chief about this (they like Triesman's comments very much). We want your questions for FAST - be it regarding the filesharing of music or programs - whatever. So, hurry on over to my blog post about this (link below) and drop your posers in the comments box.

    http://community.zdnet.co.uk/blog/0,1000000567,10006270o-2000331761b,00.htm
    David Meyer
  • How much could ISPs really do?

    It's good to see the authorities over here putting the onus on ISPs and professional file-sharers rather than suing single mothers for hundreds of thousands of dollars ( your choice of tracks was definitely not worth it) as record companies in the US did recently.

    However - it's not clear to me how granular ISPs can go in terms of monitoring the types of traffic on their networks. It sounds possible in theory, but the costs of policing networks could be enormous - which I guess they would have to pass onto the consumer - so we'd have to pay more for a restricted service - great.
    Andrew Donoghue
  • Her choice of music wasn't that bad

    She did share some Steven Adler-era Guns'n'Roses, if I recall correctly...
    David Meyer
  • They should jail a few people as an example

    Of course they can't catch everyone but a few high publicity prison sentences for theft (piracy = shop lifting) might make people think twice before they steal
    mrjonno