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7 Million UK Broadband ISP Users Involved in Illegal File Sharing

Posted: 29th May, 2009 By: MarkJ
The Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Policy (SABIP), a government advisor, has published the results of two recently commissioned literature reviews into intellectual property and the behaviours of Digital Consumers in the online world. The studies reveal that approximately 7 million people in the UK are involved with illegal downloads, accounting for over half of the country's total Internet traffic.

Interestingly consumer confusion seems to play a large part, with so much of the Internet's content being "free", many often find it difficult to identify legal from illegal. There's also concern that future and far faster 40Mbps+ ( BT FTTC etc. ) broadband services will only make the problem worse by allowing more to be downloaded in a shorter space of time.

Meanwhile UK ISP's continue to argue that they are not a police force and are only mere conduits of data, not its controllers. However, we note that ISPs trying to control this flow of information not only go against net neutrality but also risk breaking the above argument. That’s called trying to have your cake and eating it too.

The UK Internet Service Providers Association ( ISPA ) once said: "ISPs 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." ISPs cannot detect illegal traffic, unless they know exactly what traffic is illegal - a catch 22.

Typically rights holders try to report this data to ISPs, though it is far from a perfect system. 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.

Still, the problem does have to be tackled, and TorrentFreak's latest summary of the Top 10 Most Pirated TV Shows and Movies helps to illustrate the situation. Many of the movie downloads relate to extremely recent releases:
Most Downloaded TV Shows (all episodes)
1. Heroes
2. Lost
3. 24
4. Prison Break
5. House M.D.
6. Grey’s Anatomy
7. Desperate Housewives (wait, people actually download this? LOL)
8. How I Met Your Mother
9. Gossip Girl
10. Battlestar Galactica

Most Downloaded Movies (recent releases)
1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (R5)
2. He’s Just Not That Into You
3. Angels and Demons (Telecine)
4. The Horsemen
5. Fired Up
6. Push (R5)
7. Star Trek (Telecine)
8. Crank: High Voltage (R5)
9. Fanboys
10. Valkyrie
Lord Carter is expected to outline his plans for tackling this problem when, sometime over the next few weeks, he reveals the final Digital Britain report. Given the lack of a voluntary agreement between the industry and ISPs we wouldn’t be surprised to see a bloodbath of anger from one side or the other, depending on which way he swings.

Elsewhere we would like to see some rights holders, movie studios in particular, doing more to embrace digital technology by releasing legal distribution channels for new movies. Many people now have advanced home cinema systems and would much rather watch a new release at home than go to a cinema, yet such a notion is repeatedly shunned by the big studios.
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