ISPs stand firm after P2P ruling

ISPs stand firm after P2P ruling

Summary: Internet service providers maintain they should not be liable for illegal P2P file sharing over their networks

TOPICS: Networking

The Internet Service Providers' Association has repeated its assertion that ISPs should not be responsible for any illegal file sharing that takes place over their networks.

Speaking on Wednesday in the wake of a controversial ruling in a Belgian court and comments made by the Conservative leader David Cameron, a spokesperson for ISPA maintained that ISPs should not be "set up to play judge and jury" over alleged copyright infringement.

Last week a Belgian court ruled that the ISP Scarlet — formerly Tiscali — had the technology available to it to block or filter copyright-infringing material being sent over its network via peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic, and had six months to start doing so.

The judgement drew praise from John Kennedy, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), who claimed that it proved that "the internet's gatekeepers, the ISPs, have a responsibility to help control copyright-infringing traffic on their networks".

The court's decision — which sets a precedent in European law but seems likely to be challenged — will not be repeated in the UK anytime soon, according to telecoms lawyer Danny Preiskel of Preiskel & Co. "I think we are a way away from reaching a similar decision in the UK in imposing such liability," he told, adding that such a case here would be "fiercely resisted" by ISPs.

But ISPs in the UK are opening themselves up to some degree of liability by moving away from being providers of "pure conduits", as they might be responsible for anything defamatory contained within the value-added content many ISPs are now trying to sell to their customers, added Preiskel. However, he confirmed that P2P steered clear of this pitfall by virtue of the fact that no content is hosted.

An ISPA spokesperson agreed, telling that "ISPs are recognised in the eCommerce Directive (2002) as mere conduits of information".

The spokesperson also responded to David Cameron's recent claims that, if ISPs could remove child pornography from their servers, they should also be willing to shut down the transmission of copyright-infringing material. "We are talking about different things here — child pornography is criminal and copyright infringement can be a civil case."

"ISPs shouldn't be set up to play judge and jury," the spokesperson continued. "What we wouldn't want is corporate censorship. Any kind of censorship of the internet has to be at the government level — ISPs are not law enforcement. We understand that ISPs play a part in combating instances of illegal activity on the internet, which is why we engage with rights holders and work with government authorities on that basis, but we wouldn't say we're the gatekeepers of the internet. The people responsible for unlawful content going up on the internet are the people who put it there."

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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  • About Time ISPs were made responsible

    I think it is about time that ISPs were made responsible for the crap that emanates from their network. I am fed up with being attacked by infected PCs and being ignored by the ISPs when I complain.
    My complaint does ask that the owners are notified that they are infected so that at least they are made aware and can take action.

    In this instance of copyrighted material over P2P, the ISP should not have to police the content, but if they are made aware that content is "illegal" then they should have to act on it, in the first instance by notifying the P2P node owner with a ceast and desist nominating the offending material, in case the owner does not know they are actually hosting but giving them time to sort it out, and then follow up with a block of some sort for violating the TOS. These simple notification procedures once in place would then help the rest of us cleaning up the net.
  • ISPs - responsible?

    Making ISP's responsible for P2P traffic that may contain copyright content is akin to making the people who make/maintain roads responsible for motorists who drive on them while breaking the law.

    ISP's will self govern as P2P, especially movies and other content uses significant bandwidth, bandwidth costs money.

    trying to enforce them to block a p2p link becuase the filename or hash just happens to match a commercial product is futile and prone to error.

    Lets see when this ISP gets sued first for blocking a legitimate transfer from an influential customer.

    Kijoma Broadband - ISP
  • Proper Process

    Sticking to the case in point although my biggest gripe is infected PCs. If a person or company provides suitable evidence that "illegal" material is being hosted via an ISP then as I said, the ISP should notify the user that the complaint has been made along with the evidence presented. The user can then either act on the information, or query the issue. Just because there is a good customer involved does not alter the issues. There were examples of unsavoury people using business and acedemic networks as depositories unbeknownst to the owners, who were later fined heavily. This process would have made them aware much earlier. I do not mean for the ISP to either monitor the traffic or disclose identities, but a lot of end users are not aware they are breaking the law and desist as soon as they are so told. If the people choose to ignore valid warning and continue, then the due process of law can take over where the copyright owner can pursue as they do now.