Aust ISPs deny receiving piracy warnings

Internet service providers BigPond and iiNet have denied receiving e-mails from a software piracy watchdog warning of illegal activities by their users, although Optus and People Telecom say otherwise.The Business Software Alliance said it sent almost 3,400 messages to ISPs in Australia this year on top of 10,617 notices in 2004.

Internet service providers BigPond and iiNet have denied receiving e-mails from a software piracy watchdog warning of illegal activities by their users, although Optus and People Telecom say otherwise.

The Business Software Alliance said it sent almost 3,400 messages to ISPs in Australia this year on top of 10,617 notices in 2004. Software heavyweights including Microsoft, Symantec, Adobe, Autodesk, Borland and McAfee are members of the BSA.

The e-mails identify the details of alleged peer-to-peer copyright infringement by the ISPs' users, and ask that action be taken to stop the practice. BSA Asia director of anti-piracy, Tarun Sawney, told ZDNet Australia  the nation's largest ISPs -- BigPond, Optus and iiNet -- was duly notified.

However, a spokesperson for Australia's largest ISP, BigPond, said he did not believe the company received any such notice. BigPond has a specific contact for alleged copyright infringements, a service in existence since January 1.

iiNet managing director Michael Malone said his company had not received any e-mails from the BSA, and expressed surprise at the organisation's allegation.

An Optus spokesperson confirmed receipt of the warnings but -- in direct contrast with People Telecom, which forwards on all notices to the specified users -- said the ISP will not respond unless the complaint fits local legal requirements.

"Optus operates in compliance with the Copyright Amended Regulation 2004 and upon receipt of a compliant notification, will take appropriate action," the spokesperson said.

The BSA's counterparts in the music and movie business are also hot on the trails of copyright infringers.

Craig Hoffman, who leads Warner Bros' worldwide anti-piracy division, also targets movie pirates with e-mail warnings.

Although Hoffman could not confirm which Australian ISPs were on his list, he said: "Since these file-swapping services are used by a variety of people with different ISPs, it is probably safe to say that most of the major ISPs have at least one customer who has been involved in illegal file-swapping and thus has received a notice to pass on to that customer."

People Telecom chief executive officer Ryan O'Hare disclosed last week that his company had received hundreds of warnings since it launched 18 months ago. O'Hare's belief was that every ISP received such messages from the BSA.

BSA's Sawney conceded that one explanation for the ISPs' claimed lack of knowledge could stem from recent changes to the way in which Australian ISPs receive infringement notices. "As a result there may have been a period of time where some ISPs did not receive notices while the system changed over," he said.

He said he would be glad to discuss the specifics of the issue with the ISPs. However, Sawney admits that for all his efforts, the BSA may be toothless.

While ISPs pretty much act responsibly when they receive such a notice, he said, "we can never be 100 percent sure on compliance in terms of whether they have actually taken steps to take piracy sites down because they're on a peer-to-peer network."

"We've never taken action against individual users," Sawney added, "except in Asia where we've gone after people who've been using the Internet to send spam advertising software for cheap prices."

"One of the problems we have is the size of the problem. It's simply impossible for us to go after each and every pirate that's out there."

BSA only has one investigator working on peer-to-peer software piracy issues, although Sawney noted the process was mainly automated.

The main applications used to pirate software, he said, were BitTorrent and eDonkey, which "have come to the fore recently".