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ISP TalkTalk UK Warns Digital Economy Bill Could Fuel Piracy

Posted: 27th Jan, 2010 By: MarkJ
talktalk logoBroadband provider TalkTalk has once again warned that the Digital Economy Bill could have precisely the opposite of its desired effect. TalkTalk fears it will ignite the development of tools that make it even easier for people to access music, films and other copyright-protected material for free and undetected, defeating any attempt to protect copyright.

That was the message to MPs and Peers yesterday at a briefing in Westminster organised by TalkTalk. They were given a chance to see some of these tools and applications in action at a briefing entitled Principles and Practicalities of Copyright Protection. They also had the chance to hear from four organisations – Which?, Liberty, Consumer Focus and Open Rights Group – about the damaging effect of the bill on human and consumer rights.

It is not known what proportion of copyright-protected content is accessed using related tools and service but research by the BPI suggests people are already migrating away from traditional P2P (which can be monitored, albeit at great expense) and using other methods instead.
Examples of these tools include:

* Applications which scan thousands of internet radio stations, and in a few hours download tracks from selected artists and then catalogue them
* Services which effectively conceal users’ IP addresses, allowing them to download material without detection
* Websites which stream “pay to view” sporting events broadcast outside the UK
* Tools which allow users to ‘rip’ content from TV / music services such as iPlayer
In addition there are also many private P2P services and P2P itself is relatively easy to make anonymous by using encrypted proxy servers or VPN solutions. There are also less reliable IP block list applications and other methods for generally abusing IP addresses in such a way that tracking them results in incorrect data.

Similarly the old fashioned alternative services for illegal downloading, such as binary newsgroups (Usenet), Websites, IRC and FTP, have not gone away. It's important to point out that these services are used primarily for legal means but, just like any online system, they can also be abused.

Charles Dunstone, chief executive of TalkTalk, said:

"The measures in the Digital Economy Bill will hasten the migration away from P2P, ignite the development of new tools and popularise the notion that stealing content is socially acceptable, akin to breaking the speed limit by one or two miles per hour. The inevitable consequence of persisting with this legislation will be to increase the moral chasm between labels and fans and between government and citizens.

Copyright infringement is illegal. We do not encourage, condone or profit from it. But we live in the real world and it is clear that the Digital Economy Bill is futile and will only hasten the development of more beneath-the-radar tools and applications. The old model just cannot work in the digital age.

Content owners really frustrate music and film fans by allowing material to be downloaded only to one device or used in only one format. Most fans grudgingly put up with it but some are smart enough to develop applications which allow content to be copied from one format or device to another. And that is the genesis of many of the tools which are currently out there."

In its current form the bill could also damage shared Internet access services, such as those used in businesses and Wi-Fi hotspots. The owner of the network could easily become responsible for an almost impossible to police action by an unidentifiable user.

The concept of any shared network is essentially under threat, especially in a world where modern security can so easily be bypassed. However the real problems start for those innocent people who end up being accused of such activity. It would be almost impossible to prove your case, such as if a private home network had been hijacked.

Still, we do think that warning letters are a good idea and blocking known illegal P2P sites or even restricting P2P speeds to repeat abusers might be a tolerable patch. Doing anything further wanders into dangerously uncertain territory.
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