FAST Supports New Zealand’s Three-Strikes Plan for File-Sharers

The UK’s Federation Against Software Theft (FAST IiS) has given a “cautious welcome” to New Zealand’s new copyright protection laws, which will terminate Internet access for repeat copyright infringers. FAST now appears to be promoting a similar system for use with UK broadband ISPs

According to James Craig, Legal Counsel at FAST IiS, the proposal offers a possible option for the UK to follow: “This is definitely something the UK can look at, albeit with tightly-defined definitions,” says James.

“At FAST IiS we favour a three strikes and you’re out policy,” it says in a press release. “This allows a gradual build up of pressure on copyright infringers that ranges from notification of wrongdoing, possible reduction in bandwidth for a second offence, and termination of connection for persistent content thieves.”

Section 92 of New Zealand’s Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act, enacted this past April and set to take effect at the end of February, requires ISPs to act on “guilt upon accusation,” disconnecting those users merely alleged of engaging in copyright infringement.

Section 92A reads:

    “(1) An Internet service provider must adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides for termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the account with that Internet service provider of a repeat infringer.

    “(2) In subsection (1), repeat infringer means a person who repeatedly infringes the copyright in a work by using 1 or more of the Internet services of the Internet service provider to do a restricted act without the consent of the copyright owner.

Whats’s of concern is that it doesn’t require the creation of a process whereby individuals can challenge any copyright infringement accusations made against them. The ISP isn’t going to go out of its way to determine a person’s guilt and will instead not want to risk breaking the law or lawsuit by a copyright holder.

However FAST, unlike certain creative industry representatives’ in the UK, does at least acknowledge that the methods used to identify illegal file sharers is prone to error.

“Technology is not foolproof and care needs to be taken to ensure innocent parties who may have suffered hijacked wi-fi, or the unwitting owners of a shared computer are not unfairly blamed,” it continues. “These issues need to be taken into consideration before anyone is sanctioned, as unfounded accusations do not benefit anyone in the consumer or copyright community.”

One problem is that some P2P file-sharing networks add spoof or fake IP addresses into their systems to confuse the identification of wrongdoers, which can be problematic for legitimate users utilizing the real IP address.

Another concerns the issue of false positives that prove the haphazard nature of IP address identification. If you recall, University of Washington researchers released a study a little over 7 months ago that illustrated how the current method employed by copyright holders to make copyright infringement claims against BitTorrent users can not conclusively determine if actual copyright infringement has taken place.

"By profiling copyright enforcement in the popular BitTorrent file sharing system, we were able to generate hundreds of real DMCA takedown notices for computers at the University of Washington that never downloaded nor shared any content whatsoever," reads part of the conclusions in "Challenges and Directions for Monitoring P2P File-Sharing Networks."

"Further, we were able to remotely generate complaints for nonsense devices including several printers and a (non-NAT) wireless access point. Our results demonstrate several simple techniques that a malicious user could use to frame arbitrary network endpoints."

So concerns that innocent users can be caught up in the dragnet with no legal recourse are justified.

“The issue of online copyright theft is of global concern. Other Governments are articulating their intentions and working to uphold the rights of legitimate businesses and consumers of digital content. Here in the UK a coherent strategy that works for all copyright holders who suffer digital theft would benefit the entire country, safeguard jobs and taxes and allow the UK to compete with our competitors in the international marketplace.”

“It is important to protect our UK creative industries which employ 1.9 million people and generates eight percent of our GDP. That’s a lot of people who depend on the law to safeguard their products and their jobs, ” James concluded.

That may be so, but are the majority of the people of the UK always going to be expected to limit their ability to communicate freely with one another so that a minority can have a job? What about the job creation possible if the govt prevents private business interests from filtering the Internet and forces them to finally evolve?

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