Saturday, 29 March 2008

3 strikes and your out ISP policy continues across Europe

TorrentFreak is hosting a couple of noteworthy stories regarding the attempts to police the sharing of copyright material across European internet connections. Following closely on the often misreported story in the UK that the Government is planning a "three strikes and your out" disconnection policy against repeat offenders, it would seem that Norway and Iceland have upset the interests of copyright holders

Japan has already agreed in principle to honour this type of system, on the back of a huge up swell in the use of file-sharing services. Pressure is mounting on ISPs in other countries: on March 10th 2008 the IFPI launched proceedings against Ireland's largest ISP, Eircom, in an attemtp to make the ISP accept responsibility for what its customers do on the network.

The decision in Iceland hinged on the claim that, the largest torrent tracker in the country, was accused of providing easy access to copyright material. However, the ability to search for files which contain meta-data that point to copyright material rather than the actual copyright material itself is not illegal. The case was dismissed (the link to the verdict is here in it's native Icelandic).

The Norwegian case has some similarities. MPAA lawyer Espen T√łndel is demanding that Norwegian ISPs disconnect file-sharers from the internet. However, ISPs are refusing to act as the investigators and judges in cases against their own customers - something which can be costly and labour intensive to pursue. Instead, IKT Norway ( a group acting on behalf of Norwegian service providers) is looking into the legality of private detection firms attempting to connect personal data to the said firms.

The Norwegian and Iceland examples may seem like good news for pirates but it would seem that pressure is still being applied to ISPs and their users, with a number of interested parties intent on lobbying for change. TorrentFreak points to a report by Nick Heath on Silicon which suggests that BPUI and the IFPI are looking to create robotic networks which will detect illegal file-sharing activity. Supposedly, file-sharing using BitTorrent clients has become too easy.

The details of how the detection between illegal and legal file-sharing will be made is still unclear. Even the BBC uses a variant of the BitTorrent protocol for distributing content as part of its dual pronged iPlayer service. Attempts in the US by ISP Comcast to interrupt the BitTorrent protocol with the Sandvine software has been deeply unpopular with customers, with an FCC hearing even claiming that the process was tantamount to the use of 'hacker techniques'. This has been a PR disaster for both Comcast and the company behind Sandvine (who saw their share value plummet by 42% in a single day).

Elsewhere, The Pirate Bay's intentions are loud and clear, especially in their taunting of Hollywood. Matt Mason's blog suggests that major labels and there related interest groups can learn from the pirates and need to adjust their own business practices to best compete. A video of a recent lecture he gave on the issue can be found below

The Register is carrying a story which seeks to impose a 'covenant not to sue' on US college students and alumni caught sharing copyright material. It would seem that the game of cat and mouse is not over yet, but national laws are looking harder to co-opt for the major labels.

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