BPI asks ISPs to do its dirty work

As reported by Reuters and the BBC, the BPI has asked two ISPs – Cable & Wireless, and Tiscali – to terminate the accounts of 59 broadband users because the BPI claims that they are infringing copyright. Cory Doctorow has an excellent post on BoingBoing explaining why this is a really bad idea, not just for users but for ISPs too:

Notice-and-takedown is a censor’s best friend, but as the music and film industry can attest, it hasn’t made any kind of dent in copyright infringement. For one thing, it’s wholly ineffective against P2P file-sharing — notice-and-takedown only works on stuff hosted on an ISP’s web-server, not on a customer’s own PC.

The new proposal for notice-and-termination aims at creating an even more radical version of this judge, jury and executioner privilege the entertainment industry has secured for itself. Under notice-and-termination, you need only claim to be an aggrieved rightsholder to actually knock someone’s DSL circuit offline.

This sounds like something similar to notice-and-takedown, but there’s a gigantic difference: the cost of connecting a DSL circuit is vastly higher than the cost of putting some files on a web-server. Indeed, ISPs have told me that it can take years to recoup the cost of connecting a customer to the Internet.

This story has also been covered by eHomeUpgrade, where I commented:

It’s essential that ISPs resist the BPI’s attempt to strong-arm them into becoming the music industry’s bully-boys. If the BPI has evidence of wrong-doing, then it must go through the proper channels in order to pursue its case. Producing a list of IP addresses and demanding that the customers who used them be disconnected is no more than an attempt at summary justice. If the end-user is mis-identified – perhaps the IP address was shared or mis-communicated by the BPI – then it will be the ISPs and their innocent customers who will suffer the consequences.

Hopefully, the ISPs will resist the BPI’s machinations, but I suspect this is just the beginning of an attempt by the entertainment industry to get a firm grip on the internet’s jugular. As Cory says:

The BPI is floating a trial balloon here, but it’s not a coincidence that they’re proposing something already under discussion at WIPO. Getting countries or even major ISPs to adopt notice-and-termination paves the way for the creation of a takedown treaty — and the end of the Internet as we know it.

UPDATE: Tiscali tell the BPI to get lost, and sound distinctly unimpressed with the BPI’s tactics. From Webuser:

A Tiscali spokeswoman described the move as a ‘media ambush’. She said the BPI had “[sent] their letter to the media before we even had a chance to read it and the information they went to press with was not strictly correct”.

And more from Tiscali’s letter to the BPI:

You have sent us a spreadsheet setting out a list of 17 IP addresses you allege belong to Tiscali customers, whom you allege have infringed the copyright of your members, together with the dates and times and with which sound recording you allege that they have done so. You have also sent us extracts of screenshots of the shared drive of one of those customers. You state that such evidence is “overwhelming”. However, you have provided no actual evidence in respect of 16 of the accounts. Further, you have provided no evidence of downloading taking place nor have you provided evidence that the shared drive was connected by the relevant IP address at the relevant time.

Similar requests we have dealt with in the past, have included such information and, indeed, the bodies conducting those investigations have felt that a court would consider it necessary to see such evidence, supported by sworn statements, before being able to grant any order.