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BBC wants ISPs to exterminate Australian Doctor Who torrenters

BBC Worldwide has revealed that 13,000 Australians downloaded leaked episodes of the new series of Doctor Who, as the company pushes to force ISPs to keep an eye out for 'suspicious behaviour' of its users downloading large amounts of data.

Doctor Who broadcaster BBC has said that ISPs should be forced to monitor their customers' download usage and reprimand users believed to be downloading shows or films through services such as BitTorrent.

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Image: BBC

A major justification for why Australians turn to websites such as The Pirate Bay and other copyright-infringing methods to obtain TV shows and films is because of the lack of availability of content in a timely and affordable manner. However, Doctor Who is one of the few overseas shows in Australia that is broadcast at the same time as it airs in the UK, at 4.30am AEST every Sunday morning on the ABC, before being put on ABC's catchup service iview, and rebroadcast on Sunday evening.

The ABC and the BBC have done this in a move to please fans of the show, and deter customers from resorting to BitTorrent to see the show when it airs.

But this season of Doctor Who suffered a number of leaks of the first three episodes, in low-quality workprint format, that were sent to Marcelo Camargo of Marc Drei Productions for subtitling. The episodes ultimately ended up on torrent websites weeks before the episodes were aired on the BBC, and in the BBC's submission (PDF) to the Australian online copyright infringement discussion paper , the broadcaster said that around 13,000 Australian IP addresses were linked to the BitTorrent file.

"Despite the BBC dedicating considerable resources to taking down and blocking access to these Doctor Who materials, there were almost 13,000 download attempts of these materials from Australian IP addresses in the period between their unauthorised access and the expiration of the usual catch-up windows," the BBC said.

The Australian government has outlined a number of proposals for how to deter consumers from infringing on copyright online, including a graduated alert system to warn users for repeat infringements, and the potential for rights holders to get a court injunction to force ISPs to block websites containing infringing content.

The BBC went one step further, suggesting that ISPs be forced to monitor their customers' behaviour.

"It is reasonable for ISPs to be placed under an obligation to identify user behaviour that is 'suspicious' and indicative of a user engaging in conduct that infringes copyright. Such behaviour may include the illegitimate use by internet users of IP obfuscation tools in combination with high download volumes," the BBC said.

"The determination of what an 'illegitimate' use of such tools is, and the threshold of what would be considered a 'high' download volume over a period of time, would need to take into account legitimate explanations in order to avoid false positives and to safeguard the fundamental rights of consumers — such matters would be open to further industry discussion and agreement."

Many rights holders, as well as the government, have been reluctant to state what the last step in a graduated response scheme should be, with some suggesting it be limited to a throttling of the download speeds on a user's account. The BBC backed this proposal, but also said that in some situations, accounts should be exterminated.

"Possible sanctions could include subjecting repeat offenders to a slowing down of their bandwidth, but stopping short of cutting off the internet service, except in the most serious and egregious circumstances, as is the case in the United States," the BBC said.

The BBC said that site blocking should also extend from sites hosting peer-to-peer services to those with live television-streaming services, and embedded streaming services.