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Software Industry Calls on UK ISPs to Help Stop Piracy via New Business Models

Posted: 21st Jan, 2011 By: MarkJ
uk Federation Against Software TheftThe Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), a not-for-profit group that campaigns for the legitimate use of software (computer games and applications etc.), has called on UK broadband ISPs to help combat "illegal" (i.e. unlawful) copyright file sharing by their customers through the development of "mutual business models" (such as?).

John Lovelock, CEO of FAST, said:

"It must be in the ISPs’ commercial interest to work with rights holders to develop mutual business models, thus driving customers to buy legitimate products. This would provide both industries with a win-win; and would ensure that SME software houses are not bankrupted by having their expensive bespoke software products shared among businesses without being paid for."

However so far most ISPs, consumer groups and even a few politicians, have complained of how Rights Holders are themselves far too quick to use the 2010 Digital Economy Act's (DEA) stick and often appear to completely forget about the carrot.

TalkTalk’s Director of Strategy, Andrew Heaney, recently told the Digital Economy All-Party Parliamentary Group (DEAPPG):

"The DEA isn’t a sledgehammer to crack a nut – it’s a sledgehammer that misses the nut completely. Any legislation to combat file sharing needs to be proportionate, fair and balanced. The problems with the DEA are the cost, the ineffectiveness and the unintended consequences, such as vicarious liability.

There is an open door [at TalkTalk and other ISPs] to all parties who want to discuss solutions, but we’ve had silence from the other side."

Despite getting most of their own way with the DEA, FAST believes that the software industry needs its own legislation to combat copyright infringement. It claims that the DEA and the existing Copyright Act will be "ineffective" at combating software piracy. This is contradicted by another recent comment.

John Lovelock said in early January 2011:

"Over the past few years we have seen detailed research come out from law firm Wiggin which showed that 7 out of 10 pirates would cease if they received a warning from their Internet Service Provider (ISP). The statistics clearly show that by simply applying a small amount of pressure ISPs themselves can make a huge impact on the reduction of online piracy."

FAST's latest remarks follow on the back of a new European Commission (EC) report, which claimed that current intellectual property rights’ laws (2004 Directive on Intellectual Property Rights) are not strong enough to combat online IP infringement effectively. This is despite some "noteworthy progress" being made since its introduction.
EC I-P Report Quote

File-sharing of copyright-protected content has become ubiquitous, partly because the development of legal offers of digital content has not been able to keep up with demand, especially on a cross-border basis, and has led many law-abiding citizens to commit massive infringements of copyright and related rights in the form of illegal up-loading and disseminating protected content.

Many online sites are either hosting or facilitating the online distribution of protected works without the consent of the right holders. In this context, the limitations of the existing legal framework may need to be clearly assessed.
There is absolutely no doubt that "online piracy must be taken seriously", although many feel that this should be tempered against a degree of realism about what is and is not workable. The basic letter warning system is a good start and might actually help consumers to identify problems (i.e. with the system itself or on their own home networks), although moving into the tedious arena of punishment is far more difficult.

The DEA threatens to use notoriously unreliable IP address based evidence to identify unlawful file sharing; at best, when the data is actually correct, it will only be able to target the connection owner (could be a hotel or shared network etc.). It could also lead to the blocking of legitimate websites, service speed restrictions, hamper open Wi-Fi services or even cause account disconnection ("suspension") from your ISP.

A lot of Rights Holders also make an assumption that the bulk of any unlawful downloads are equal to lost sales, which many ISPs and consumers feel to be completely unrealistic. For example, a child who downloads 500 music tracks is unlikely to have ever brought anything like that many (i.e. they wouldn't have enough money for it).
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