ISPreview - UK Music - Illegal File Sharing Interview Part2
UK Music - Illegal File Sharing Interview Part2
By: Mark Jackson - February 2nd, 2009 : Page 1 -of- 2
"One recent survey by Which? suggested that hundreds of people are already being incorrectly accused of having downloaded illegal content"

Welcome to the second part of our interview with UK Music (LINK TO PART 1):

11. Many Internet, networking and security experts agree that IP addresses are a highly unreliable way of determining an individual user’s identity and that checking somebody’s hard drive is the only fool proof way to identify individuals and illegal downloading. By contrast a public hearing in January at the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee came to general agreement that IP addresses constitute personal data, albeit more for Static IP’s than dynamic ones.

However IP’s can easily be hijacked, often without even needing to compromise the user’s computer or local network, and many file sharing services also inject random IP’s over real ones to mask the users identity. One recent survey by Which? suggested that hundreds of people are already being incorrectly accused of having downloaded illegal content because of fake or incorrectly tracked records like this.

Furthermore ISPs are often unable to validate what online activity has taken place due laws that restrict how closely they can monitor an individual’s online activity and the technical limitations of doing so. Use of encryption can also be a serious problem.

Put simply, there are many different ways to redirect, hide and generally undermine IP’s without breaching a legal user’s system. Public wireless hotspots, BT’s shared Wi-Fi networking scheme (FON), big business networks, university networks, public Hotspot access points and such like can also make it nearly impossible to identify a specific individual.

Some would probably point towards the courts as a somewhat impractical and expensive solution for such dilemmas, but doesn’t the fallibility of IP’s blow a serious hole in any attempt to enforce, punish or restrict illegal downloading? The risk of targeting the wrong person is high.

UK Music: That’s precisely why the letters sent out by UK ISPs have been educational in tone – with an emphasis on issues such as the hijacking of IP addresses and data security. They are not legal threats. 

12. Some of those accused of illegal downloading have blamed it on hackers that infiltrate their wireless network(s). Naturally all users should try to at least install anti-virus and firewall protection, though it may be unrealistic to expect everybody to know how to do this, especially the elderly and those uneducated in I.T.

Meanwhile prosecutors sometimes argue that users are legally required to secure their network, though Michael Coyle, an intellectual property solicitor with law firm Lawdit, dismisses this saying: "There is no section of the Copyright Act which makes you secure your network although it is commonsense to do so." Perhaps more to the point, there’s no such thing as 100% security.

Who is more at fault here, the industry for making a potentially incorrect accusation, the user for lacking the knowledge to secure their network, the ISP for failing to educate their users about security settings or the hardware, software manufacturers, vendors and retailers whom so often fail to enable security features by default or the hacker that commits the act?

UK Music: I would imagine there can never be such a thing as 100% security. Although, in the same breath, I’m not sure what proportion of illegal downloaders are the victims of hackers (or elderly or uneducated in IT for that matter). Perhaps you’ve got some statistics?

As for the question, I don’t think it’s possible to apportion a hierarchy of blame. Or particularly constructive. Rather than looking to point the finger, I think the music industry would like to move forward with users, networks and ISPs.

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