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Has the Information Commissioner Let File-Sharers Down?

Posted: 24th Oct, 2008 By: MarkJ
The Lawdit reading room, a site that covers legal news from around the world, has accused the governments Information Commissioner (IC) of letting suspected illegal file-sharers (P2P) down by failing to protect their privacy.

However Michael Coyle, a Solicitor Advocate who specialises in information technology and intellectual property law, is not so much defending the act as he is attacking the flawed use of Internet Protocol (IP) data to identify individuals:

UK ISPs were ordered earlier this year by the High Court to disclose information relating to its customer's data based on information provided to them by amongst others the games companies. The information sought was based on the customer's IP address. Pursuant to CPR 31.18 Lawyers applied for an order that the ISP disclose the full name, postal address and telephone number of the subscriber of each of the IP addresses supplied.

The game plan was to match the ISP address with the individual and write to them with a hefty threatening letter and a request for 600 pounds. If this sum was not paid, court action would follow, costing tens of thousands of pounds. It all seemed fairly conclusive. The ISP complied and the Lawyers commenced the enormous task of writing to over (so we understand) 25,000 potential infringers.

However it was only when responses started to flood in - many in their hundreds to Lawdit Solicitors- did it become clear that the IP addresses while revealing a name and address did not reveal the culprit. It proved very little. It certainly did not prove that any copyright infringement had taken place far from it. Only by inspecting the hard drive of the customer's computer could you do this. If there were any other evidence to sit alongside the IP address, for example a user name or password of the file sharing software you could sympathise with the rights holder.

The full article makes for an interesting read and offers quite a different take on the use and identification of those believed to be involved with downloading illegal content. Certainly many would feel that the IC has been inadequate when trying to deal with Phorm too.
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