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Should ISPs really be made to police the network?

The UK government has today announced it is considering a crackdown on illegal file-sharing and is calling on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to play a part in policing it. If plans go ahead, ISPs will be legally required to take action against users who access pirated material.

Michael Phillips, product development director of comments, “Downloading technology has moved on significantly in the life of the Internet. It will be extremely difficult for ISPs to police this as the difficulty will be isolating the ‘legal’ downloads from ‘illegal’ downloads.”

“Even if ISPs could identify copyrighted material flowing over their network, there is a big question over the cost required to monitor it. ISPs are not only going to be reluctant to foot the bill, but they also won’t want to ‘shop’ some of their biggest paying customers! We would suggest that the government looks for alternatives for policing this problem. Perhaps the music and the film industry should be footing some of the bill?” concludes Phillips.

ISPs can generally identify the types of traffic travelling through their network but are normally unable to pinpoint exactly what is being shared. File sharing is on the up, with the recent introduction of the BBC iplayer and Channel 4’s 4oD service. Both services use peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing to distribute material.
Phillips adds, “P2P networks are in fact legal, so it is important that any implemented legislation doesn’t restrict the legitimate uses of these tools. Identifying how much content on these networks is illegally shared will be extremely difficult to track.”

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Rachel Lear / Louise Mapp
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Michael Phillips
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