The anti-piracy elements of the UK’s controversial and much-delayed Digital Economy Act are continuing their slow march to implementation with the publication of OFCOM’s updated Initial Obligations Code today.
As the DEA dictates, ISP accounts linked to peer-to-peer infringements will be subject to receiving a series of notifications warning the bill payer that their activities (or those of people in their household) are unacceptable and in need of change.
The amendments to the Code, which provides a set of standards and procedures by which the anti-P2P (mainly BitTorrent related) elements of the Act will be governed, are very much a mixed bag.
First, and on the plus side for subscribers, is that evidence collection systems of copyright holders will have to fall into line with OFCOM standards before they can send any CIRs (copyright infringement reports) to ISPs.
Additionally, the Code states that copyright owners may only send a CIR if they have ‘gathered evidence in accordance with the approved procedures’ which lead to the ‘reasonable’ belief that the subscriber has infringed a rightsholder’s copyright or that he has allowed someone else to use his account in order to do so.
In the original version of OFCOM’s Code rightsholders were given 10 days in which to send CIRs to ISPs, but in the updated code they are allowed a month following the time of detection – roughly three times longer than before.
For their part, ISPs were previously allowed 10 days from receipt of a CIR to notify a customer that they had been tracked. That period has now been extended to one month. This means that there could be a 60 day gap between an alleged infringement and a subscriber being notified, up from just 20 days.
On the downside for consumer protection is the complete removal of a clause which allowed ISPs to reject rightholder CIRs if they felt in their ‘reasonable opinion’ they were invalid.
Originally it was envisaged that so-called ‘first and ‘second’ strike warnings would go out via email with only the ‘third’ going out by recorded regular mail. That has now been scrapped. All warnings will now go out by regular first class mail, meaning that there will be absolutely no proof that a subscriber has received his third warning.
In addition to conveying the warning itself, CIRs will now have to show the time and date when any infringement took place (as opposed to simply when the evidence was gathered) and also display the number of previous CIRs sent to the subscriber.
OFCOM reports that it has also introduced a requirement that there be a 20 day gap introduced between the date a previous CIR was sent out to a subscriber and evidence being valid for the creation of a subsequent CIR.
Under the previous iteration of the Code, copyright owners would only be able to request a copyright infringement report from ISPs once every three months, and the service provider would be given 5 days to produce it. That three month period has been reduced to a single month and ISPs will have double the time – 10 days – to produce it.
Under the Code subscribers will be able to lodge an appeal against wrongful accusations of infringement. The time to do so has now been clarified as 20 days from the date of receiving a CIR. It will cost an Internet account holder £20.00 to do so.
Finally, the amended Code ends with notes that the UK Government ordered the removal of two elements, both of which would have given a level of protection to subscribers.
‘On the instruction of Government we have removed the ability for subscribers to appeal on any other ground on which they choose to rely,’ the report notes, adding:
‘On the instruction of Government we have removed the requirement for ISPs and copyright owners to provide a statement showing how their processes and systems are compliant with the Data Protection Act.’
This draft Code is now open for a one month consultation period before being presented to parliament later this year. Letters will start going out in 2014…..maybe.
The full report is available here.
In April, the UK High Court ruled that several of the country’s leading ISPs must censor The Pirate Bay since the site and its users breach copyright on a grand scale.
In the weeks that followed Virgin Media, BT, Everything Everywhere, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, BE and O2 all blocked access to the world’s largest BitTorrent site. Several of the site’s IP-addresses and domain names were made inaccessible.
In a response The Pirate Bay decided to add some new IP-addresses, effectively bypassing the blockades. This worked, until this week when several ISPs updated their blocklists to include the new addresses.
In the UK the procedure to add new domains and IP-addresses is part of a ‘private agreement,’ which apparently allows the providers to quietly add new entries when it’s deemed necessary.
As of this week 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 are no longer accessible on Sky Broadband, Virgin Media and TalkTalk and possibly other providers as well. The new addresses were added quietly by all ISPs without notifying the public.
Whether the updated filter will have any effect has yet to be seen. The Pirate Bay wouldn’t be The Pirate Bay if they hadn’t already lined up a new address, and indeed they have. During the weekend the BitTorrent site will add 220.127.116.11 (not live yet) to keep the whack-a-mole game going.
A Pirate Bay insider told TorrentFreak that they have enough new addresses to keep the providers busy for years to come. However, for them it’s more of a statement than anything else as there are already dozens of proxy sites that allow users to access The Pirate Bay just fine.
The most frequently visited proxy in the UK, operated by the local Pirate party, is already among the top 350 sites in the UK.
The above shows once again that while these blockades may stop some people from accessing a site, the really determined have plenty of options. Also, of those who simply give up on accessing The Pirate Bay, many will simply switch to other torrent sites.
Proof of the ineffectiveness of the censorship attempts was recently highlighted by several Dutch and UK Internet providers, who claimed that BitTorrent traffic didn’t decline after the blockades were implemented.
In other words, blocking The Pirate Bay is futile.
As we’ve concluded before, the entertainment industry might be better off pumping money into business models that give customers what they want, legally. The censorship route doesn’t seem to work out for now.
As expected, the High Court has ordered British ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay. Five ISPs – Virgin Media, TalkTalk, BSkyB, Everything Everywhere and Telefonica – are involved in this case, which was brought by nine record labels.…
(Via The Register – Public Sector.)
Digital Economy Act not in breach of EU laws, Court of Appeal rules: “A controversial law that forces internet service providers (ISPs) to help combat illegal file-sharing is lawful, the Court of Appeal has ruled.”
(Via OUT-LAW News.)
In May, the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre (CIAPC) and the Finnish branch of the music industry group IFPI announced that they had filed a lawsuit at the District Court in Helsinki.
The groups demanded that Finnish ISP Elisa should censor The Pirate Bay to protect the copyrights of their members. Elisa, however, refused to do so and described the blocking demands as ‘unreasonable’. But following a decision today from the Helsinki District Court they are left with no choice.
The court sided with the entertainment industry and ruled that Elisa should block access to The Pirate Bay before November 18, or face a 100,000 euro fine. Aside from various domain names, the court ruling also states that the ISP has to block access to the IP-addresses used by The Pirate Bay servers.
In a response to the ruling Elisa immediately announced that it will appeal the District Court’s decision. The ISP claims that among other things, the ruling is very unclear as it doesn’t state the specific domain names or IP-addresses that should be censored.
Elisa further says that the decision is practically irrelevant in the broader fight against online copyright infringement.
‘The industry should focus on measures that can truly reduce piracy in practice, such as making content available online at a reasonable price and without artificial delays,’ Elisa’s Henri Korpi said.
The Pirate Bay is currently listed as one of the 50 most-visited websites in Finland, and it is doubtful whether a blockade by Elisa will have much of an effect.
A Pirate Bay spokesperson told TorrentFreak there are many ways to circumvent such censorship attempts, and that the order may actually have the opposite effect to what was intended.
‘Blocks in other countries only boosted our traffic numbers, so we see this as free advertising,’ we were told.
Earlier this month Belgian ISPs Belgacom and Telenet were hit with a similar verdict, limited to blocking the Pirate Bay’s domain names. This blockade went into effect a few days ago but The Pirate Bay informs TorrentFreak that they haven’t seen a significant drop in traffic from Belgium.
In addition to Belgium, the popular BitTorrent site is currently censored in Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Denmark. An attempt to establish a similar blockade in The Netherlands failed last year because there was no evidence that the majority of an ISPs’ users are infringing copyright through The Pirate Bay.
It has always been presumed that the legal action to have Newzbin2 blocked in the UK was just the beginning for the music and movie studios. Today we have that confirmation.
A coalition of the willing, headed up by the BPI and including the major Hollywood studios, approached BT, the UK’s leading ISP, with a demand – block The Pirate Bay voluntarily or consent to a court order.
The self-styled ‘world’s most resilient torrent site’ is no stranger to censorship. It is already blocked by ISPs in Ireland, Italy, Turkey, Denmark and Belgium but the quest to put it completely out of business continues.
‘The Pirate Bay is no more than a huge scam on the global creative sector. It defrauds musicians and other creators of their wages, and it destroys UK jobs,’ said Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive.
‘Unlike legal music download sites, it exposes consumers to the risk of viruses, theft of personal information and inappropriate content. We would not tolerate Counterfeits ‘R’ Us on the High Street – if we want economic growth, we cannot accept illegal rip-off sites on the internet either. We hope that BT will do the right thing and block The Pirate Bay.’
But at this stage PaidContent is reporting that BT will not simply roll over and comply with the demand for The Pirate Bay to be blocked voluntarily.
‘BT cannot block web sites willy nilly,’ said the BT source.
Voluntary action aside, BT has reportedly been given the chance to consent to a court order. If the ISP refuses it seems likely that the parties will end up in court for a mirrored re-run of the arguments in the Newzbin2 case. If there are no surprises the High Court could order a blockade of The Pirate Bay in the first half of 2012.
After a lengthy legal process the censoring of Newzbin2 finally kicked in earlier this week, but users of the site are reportedly bypassing the block by various means including the use of Newzbin2′s very own anti-blocking software.
A feature to unblock The Pirate Bay in the event that it too became blocked was already added to the client several weeks ago.
Speaking with TorrentFreak, a Pirate Bay insider laughed off the efforts to slow down the site and said that every time there are attempts at censorship the resulting publicity only gives them a boost.
‘Thanks yet again for the free advertising,’ they conclude.
Today is a sad day for Internet users in New Zealand as the country’s long-delayed ‘three-strikes’ law takes effect in that country.
New Zealand enacted ‘three-strikes’ legislation this past April after several years of ill-fated attempts. The law allows for fines of up to NZ$15,000 ($12,000) and Internet account suspensions for up to six months.
The law takes effect despite a UN report that concluded disconnecting Internet users, ‘regardless of the justification provided,’ is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because it limits the type of media individuals are allowed to use to express themselves.
UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue said that he was ‘alarmed’ by ‘disproportionate’ Internet disconnection proposals, and that individuals should never have their Internet access terminated for any reason, including copyright infringement.
Following that report, the opposition Labour Party, which had originally voted in favor of the legislation, said it agreed with La Rue’s assessment that Internet disconnection violates international law, and called for a ‘complete review’ of New Zealand’s copyright laws.
It reiterated its opposition to Internet disconnection in a recent press release, vowing to introduce a Bill within 90 days to remove the ‘termination clauses’ from the Copyright Act; it promises to introduce a new Bill within 18 months to ‘update’ and ‘extend’ digital copyright laws that won’t disconnect copyright infringers.
‘Termination is unsustainable,’ said Clare Curran, Labour’s Communications and IT spokesperson. ‘Labour voted for the Bill in April because we stuck by a commitment to work with the Government to enable Internet service providers and rights holders to reach a compromise on copyright law.’
‘That compromise meant that termination of Internet access as an ultimate penalty for repeat copyright infringement remained in the Bill, but could not be enacted without the consent of the Minister, but it is clear that this won’t work long-term.’
She said the real debate is about shifting power, access to information, out-dated business models, and the immense potential of the Internet to change the world as we know it.
‘These solutions are, of course, bigger than simply tinkering with a single section of the Copyright Act,’ added. ‘That’s why Labour will review the whole Act with a view to encouraging new business models to emerge which will distribute digital content easily and affordably.
‘It’s a fundamental principle to ensure that the work of Kiwi creators is valued and that they can maintain control over their own works. The old business models — by which the distribution of creative works was controlled by big companies — have gone.
She’s right, and that’s what they whole fight has been about: prying loose old distribution models and democratizing them. For the first time artists can disseminate their works to the entire world on their own terms, and individuals can likewise access creative works on a scale that was for most of man’s existence unimaginable.
‘Citizens everywhere are hungry for information and creative material via the digital environment. It is absolutely essential we get the balance right,’ Curran said.
Digital Economy Act’s copyright provisions should be repealed, Lib Dem policy proposal says: “Copyright laws set out in the Digital Economy Act (DEA) are ‘deeply flawed and unworkable’ and should be abolished, a Liberal Democrat policy proposal has said.“
(Via OUT-LAW News.)
A U.S. federal court has ruled that the domain seizure of sports streaming site Rojadirecta does not violate the First Amendment, and has refused to hand the domain back to its Spanish owner. The order stands in conflict with previous Supreme Court rulings and doesn’t deliver much hope to other website owners who operate under U.S. controlled domain names.
At the end of January 2011 the U.S. authorities began yet another round of domain seizures, this time against sites connected with sports streaming. This third round of action in ‘Operation in Our Sites’ took control of domains owned by sports streaming site Rojadirecta.
While most owners of affected domains have decided not to appeal the seizures, the Spanish owner of the Rojadirecta, one of Spain’s most popular sites, did.
Two months ago the company behind the site, Puerto 80, filed a petition in the Southern District of New York for the return of its domains. This call was later supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who together with Center for Democracy and Technology and Public Knowledge submitted an amicus brief in support of the Spanish company.
Yesterday, United States District Court Judge Paul Crotty decided to deny Puerto 80′s request, which means the domain will remain in the hands of the U.S. Government. The Judge argues that seizing Rojadirecta’s .com and .org domains does not violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.
‘Puerto 80’s First Amendment argument fails,’ the Judge writes.
‘Puerto 80 alleges that, in seizing the domain names, the Government has suppressed the content in the ‘forums’ on its websites, which may be accessed by clicking a link in the upper left of the home page. The main purpose of the Rojadirecta websites, however, is to catalog links to the copyrighted athletic events — any argument to the contrary is clearly disingenuous.’
The Judge further ruled that the claimed 32% decline in traffic and the subsequent harm to Puerto 80′s business is not an issue as visitors can still access the site through foreign domains. Puerto 80′s argument, that users may not be aware of these alternatives, was simply waived.
‘Rojadirecta argues that, because ‘there is no way to communicate the availability of these alternative sites on the .org or .com domains . . . the vast majority of users will simply stop visiting the sites altogether.’ This argument is unfounded — Rojadirecta has a large internet presence and can simply distribute information about the seizure and its new domain names to its customers,’ the Judge writes.
‘In addition, Puerto 80 does not explain how it generates profit or argue that it is losing a significant amount of revenue as a result of the seizure. Specifically, Puerto 80 states that it does not generate revenue from the content to which it links, and it does not claim to generate revenue from advertising displayed while such content is playing,’ Judge Crotty adds.
From the above the Judge concludes that the drop in visitor traffic due to their seizure does not establish a substantial hardship, and therefore no reason exists to return the domain.
This line of reasoning goes directly against previous rulings in First Amendment cases. As the EFF points out, in two earlier Supreme Court decisions it was concluded that having alternatives available does not mean that freedom of speech isn’t violated.
According to the EFF, the peculiarities of the ruling don’t end there.
‘As if misapplying the relevant substantive First Amendment analysis wasn’t bad enough, the court failed to even address the fatal procedural First Amendment flaws inherent in the seizure process: namely, that a mere finding of ‘probable cause’ does not and cannot justify a prior restraint. How the court believes that the seizure satisfies the First Amendment in this regard is a mystery,’ they write.
The decision of District Court Judge Paul Crotty to stand firmly behind the Government is worrying for all other websites who operate under U.S. controlled domains. It’s yet another step in granting the Government and copyright holders more control over the Internet, at the expense of smaller businesses and the rights of citizens.
5 July 2011 Last updated at 15:21 GMT
UK looks to US on piracy blocking
Footballs, AFP/Getty Ways to stop websites illegally streaming sports matches should be investigated, said Ed Vaizey
Websites hosting pirated material could be blocked in the UK if the US introduces a similar system, according to culture minister Ed Vaizey.
He told a conference in London that internet providers in the States were ‘rumoured’ to be considering a voluntary filtering.
Such an agreement would be a ‘game changer’ elsewhere, said Mr Vaizey.
There have been no official announcements from the US to substantiate the minister’s claim.
To date, UK ISPs have resisted pressure from rights holders to police their users.
Mr Vaizey struck a bullish note on the subject of copyright during his keynote speech at the Intellect Consumer Electronics conference.
‘If people are streaming live football without permission we should look at ways we can stop them,’ he said. ‘People have the right to earn money from content they create.’
However, he remained tight-lipped on what came out of last week’s meeting between UK ISPs and content providers to discuss website blocking.
Mr Vaizey’s suggestion that similar talks were taking place in the US was clearly intended to move forward the debate at home.
‘A voluntary agreement may come out of the US and if that does happen it could be a game-changer,’ he said.
In a dig at ISPs, he said he found ‘their attitude odd’, especially BT and TalkTalk’s failed legal challenge to the Digital Economy Act (DEA).
The DEA is aimed mainly at preventing piracy via peer-to-peer file-sharing but as people move away from that route, it also makes provision to block access to some websites.
It allows content providers to apply for an injunction against ISPs that do not restrict access to illegal streaming sites.
The Motion Picture Association has done just that, taking BT, the UK’s largest consumer ISP, to court over linking to members-only index site Newzbin.
The MPA wants BT to block Newzbin with the same system that stops access to sites hosting child sex abuse images.
The members-only website aggregates a large amount of the illegally copied material found on Usenet discussion forums.
The case is due to be heard next week.
Mulberry handbag, Getty Few would complain about sites peddling fake handbags, said Mr Vaizey
Another conference speaker Neil Berkett, the chief executive of Virgin Media, said there was no current agreement between UK content providers and ISPs.
‘We still have a way to go to create an environment where the two sides see eye-to-eye,’ he said.
‘How do you ensure that content is protected in an age where a whole generation thinks that stealing is just fine?’ he asked.
‘Beating them over the head with a stick is not a good start. What is needed is models that encourage people to change their behaviour, subscriptions that are cheap enough so that people think ‘I’m better off getting a full array of quality music’ ‘, he said.
The US government has pledged to pursue those who link to illegal streaming sites, including extraditing individuals from other countries.
The issue has attracted some high-profile critics, such as Google chairman Eric Schmidt.
He vowed that the search engine would fight any attempts at web blocking. He warned that putting blocking measures into legislation would set a dangerous precedent for censorious governments around the world who might be tempted to use it as a political tool.
Mr Vaizey said that critics of website blocking displayed a degree of hypocrisy.
‘They [the US government] have been tough but if they took down a website linking to fake handbags no-one would bat an eyebrow,’ he said. ‘As soon as it is a site sharing music it becomes an issue about freedom of speech.’