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One in Five Think ISPs Should Impose Restrictions on Illegal P2P

Posted: 16th Mar, 2009 By: MarkJ
The results from 472 respondents to ISPreview.co.uk's latest survey has revealed that 20.7% of Brits think ISPs should tackle repeated illegal file sharing by imposing restrictions upon P2P access. This could potentially involve blocking websites that host links to illegal downloads and or restricting the maximum speed at which P2P services are allowed to run.

Just 14.8% were in favour of restricting broadband service speed as a punishment for repeat offenders, while the largest single proportion of voters (26.9%) supported the idea of sending even more warning letters if the first one failed. Unsurprisingly 22.4% didn’t know how ISPs should solve the problem.

The results come just over one month after Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report published its response to the consultation on peer-to-peer file sharing, which set out an intention to legislate by requiring UK ISPs to “notify alleged infringers of rights (subject to reasonable levels of proof from rights-holders) that their conduct is unlawful,” said the report.

Never the less, many in the creative (music, film, software and games) industry do not believe that warnings alone will be enough to tackle repeat offenders and have been pushing for tougher action. Unfortunately several attempts at finding common ground between all of the various parties has only served to highlight a deepening divide of opinion.

The least popular options for dealing with illegal downloaders were banning the individuals from all ISPs (6.1%), disconnection from their current ISP (5.2%) and threatening customers with a fine or legal action (3.6%). Thankfully the notion of banning or disconnection appears to have been all but removed from most discussions.

Many ISPs believe that it is not their responsibility to Police the Internet, partly because they aren’t a security service in the first place and partly because of the difficult legal (privacy laws), technical and costs issues involved. The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) argues that ISPs cannot prevent illegal downloading because they “are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope.”

One significant difficulty relates to the problem of accurately identifying those involved in illegal downloading. It’s easy enough to track the IP address of somebody downloading over a P2P service, yet it’s also easy for those you’re tracking to redirect or spoof their IP and make it appear to come from a completely different individual. Couple this to the increased use of encryption and you end up with a situation where ISPs can’t validate the information and rights holders are potentially giving out erroneous data, which risks implicating innocent individuals.

The survey shows that while opinion is split there is at least some support for imposing targeted P2P restrictions on related websites and or services, though precisely what form that would take remains a difficult point to resolve. Sadly even these solutions are not without their own set of problems. Do you only go after big sites or hit any site where a visitor posts an illegal link, which could impact the whole Internet. Similarly P2P by itself is not illegal and can be frequently used by game companies (Valve, Blizzard etc.) and software developers to distribute updates.

Imposing a targeted restriction on P2P services may be among the most tolerable of all the more controversial solutions, though none are likely to win any awards for popularity. Cautious plans for a new Digital Rights Agency (DRA) to act as an intermediary between ISPs and the creative industry appear to have reached a similar conclusion, though gaining industry-wide approval for that will be traumatically difficult (yesterdays news).

Meanwhile we’ve just uploaded our latest monthly front page survey, which asks: "Have you ever been warned by an ISP about your usage (bandwidth / data) consumption?"
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