By: MarkJ - 23 September, 2009 (6:53 AM)
Telecoms giant BT has warned that the high costs involved with tackling illegal UK file sharing (P2P) could result in customers having to pay an extra £2 per month (£24 per year) on their broadband bills. The ISP fears that "wafer thin" profit margins within the industry will cause providers to push any extra costs on to users.

BT added that the current proposals would equate to about £1m per day in added costs, which would be more expensive than the music industry’s loses to piracy in the first place (estimated at £200m per year). The operator then went on to question the fallibility of the methods employed to detect piracy and the industry’s statistical claims (7m illegal UK downloaders), which were recently rubbished by the BBC (here).

John Petter, BT's consumer division boss, told The Mirror:

"[THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY] have lobbied hard and very effectively but that doesn’t make them right. Their claims are melodramatic and assume people would buy all the music that is illegally downloaded, which is nonsense. Laws already exist to enable music companies and other copyright holders to prosecute offenders but they don’t want to take the hit to their public image."

BT continued on to warn that the huge investment required to tackle piracy would quickly be outdone by pirates developing better ways of hiding their activity. Indeed such methods already exist and some would argue that the battle may have already been lost long before it has even begun.

BT's concerns follow moves by the governments Business Secretary, Peter Mandelson, to forcibly add a new "disconnection for suspected pirates" measure into the original Digital Britain report (here). The new proposal caused shock and surprise among many ISPs and consumer groups because it had previously been ruled out.

Law firms currently track suspected illegal P2P activity by monitoring IP addresses, which is highly unreliable. These addresses are assigned to every computer when you go online, yet IP's can easily be spoofed, redirected, shared (internet cafe, businesses etc.) or even hijacked (open Wi-Fi networks). The download itself could also be encrypted, making it nearly impossible for the ISP to verify.

The only true way to tell if somebody has done something illegal is to analyse their computers hard disk drive, otherwise you could just as easily end up targeting innocent users, which has already happened on a number of occasions. Suspending connections based on unreliable data and without a fair trial seems like a gross abuse. ISPs are not a police force and do not own content on the Internet.
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