First Look At UK Piracy Alert System: Mostly Benign, Except ISPs Are Requesting Filesharing Software Be Removed By Clients

from the why? dept

Earlier in the year, the public learned ISPs in the UK were partnering with the entertainment industries to send out “educational notices” to internet users suspected of copyright infringement. Having seen this type of “education” take many forms in the past, from silly to threatening, we have since waited to see what form this iteration would take. Well, TorrentFreak got in touch with someone who was notified through the system, and it appears this version is relatively benign.

The redacted sections are those that would identify the individual to whom it was sent, but you get an idea of the actual content in the notice. The links included in the notice are to the subscriber’s ISP account, as well as one that takes you to the ‘Get it Right Information Portal.” It’s at that portal that a subscriber will get more information on the suspected act of copyright infringement. While that information is fairly detailed, including such things as file sizes and types, the times and dates of the infringement, and the application used in the alleged infringement… the whole thing still relies on the faulty evidence of an IP address. That’s problematic for reasons we’ve discussed to death here at Techdirt, but given the lack of any threatening language in any of this, it’s still all fairly benign.

Which is why the individual TorrentFreak spoke with, who admits to committing the act in question, doesn’t think the public will be all that impressed with this unsolicited “education.”

“I don’t think [the warnings] will work, at least not on a big scale. Maybe they will educate some people who did it by mistake or did it just once but for someone like me there is no hope. But at least the campaign is not aggressive.”

The only thing in all of this that raised some eyebrows was that this notice came from Sky, the same ISP that has suggested that receivers of these notices will be forced to remove filesharing software to keep service from being interrupted.

“Your broadband service won’t be affected as a result of receiving this email alert,” Sky assures its subscribers, but it doesn’t stop there. “However, if you continue to share content illegally using your broadband connection, Sky will request that you take immediate steps to remove or disable any file sharing software that is being used to share copyrighted content illegally,” Sky writes.

So, putting all of this together makes this a little more troubling. ISPs will monitor your connection at the behest of private industry, will notify you that they’re doing so, and only promise to serve you as their customer if you agree to remove software with all kinds of legitimate uses… and all of this is still based on the concept that an IP address is useful as an identifier for an infringer. When taken in total context, it’s easy to see how this foot-in-the door, benign “education” could transition to ISPs mandating control of the public’s software rollouts to get service. And that’s not benign at all.

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Comments on “First Look At UK Piracy Alert System: Mostly Benign, Except ISPs Are Requesting Filesharing Software Be Removed By Clients”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


Company A wants to control how company B distributes their products. File sharing programs do not only distribute illegal copyrighted material. Here are some things I get via torrents:

Other Linux Distro’s

All of which are legally distributed vie Torrents by the owners of the software. I am sure there are others, I have heard about some games coming that way, but I haven’t run into them.

Other than being able to say they kowtowed to Big Content, what does Company A get out of it? And, where the hell does Company A get off telling their customers what software they can or cannot have on their computer? Oh, right, lack of competition and over zealous governments.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Manipulation

Or, we will mandate that you join ayour computer to the domain and WE will take care of your machine for you, install blockers and key loggers but, hey, it’s for YOUR own good and someone has to look out for you.

Note: lawmakers and other “specific” citizens will have their own domain to connect to that is not monitored since they “can be trusted to do the right things”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Internal to an ISP the IP address is actually pretty accurate. Most fixed line connection customers retain the same IP for a period of time, and the ISP generally would know who’s connection is being used.

It’s also important to note they ate not saying that the user specifically shared something, only that their connection did.

It makes the subscriber aware of potential illegal use of their connection so they can change the situation, perhaps by getting a VPN.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Internal to an ISP the IP address is actually pretty accurate”

Mostly. There’s been times where an innocent person has been targeted because the ISP misread its own logs. But, it’s not the internal ISP process that’s the major issue.

“It’s also important to note they ate not saying that the user specifically shared something, only that their connection did.”

…and where do they get that information? From a biased 3rd party with woeful quality control track record, and no evidence other than “we believe we saw IP X.X.X.X do something bad at Y time”.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Foot in the door

That’s problematic for reasons we’ve discussed to death here at Techdirt, but given the lack of any threatening language in any of this, it’s still all fairly benign.


The language used might be ‘nice’ now, but as history demonstrates the ones pushing for this sort of thing tend not to be able to keep up the ‘friendly’ facade very long before the mask slips and ‘polite request’ becomes ‘demand backed by threats’.

The first step is getting the ISP’s to act as the enforcement arm, which they’ve done, then after a while they can point to ‘piracy rates’ and say "Look, we tried being nice and it’s not working, clearly we need harsher laws! And wouldn’t you know it, we just so happen to have a few suggestions written up."

Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile) says:

Re: Foot in the door

Those laws are already in place….

Ten years jail for filesharing: or in fact any minor copyright infringement where there is a “loss by not getting what one might get” or cause a “risk” of further infringement.

Clause 27 of the Digital Economy Bill will mean that more or less any wrongful use where somebody hasn’t paid a licence fee (think of memes) is a crime. Causing “risk” to the copyright holder means almost by definition ordinary file sharing is a criminal rather than civil infringement.


DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Foot in the door

It starts with the bit torrent software.

First they came for the torrents.
I did not use torrents, so I remained silent.

Then they came for the SSH.
I did not use SSH, so I remained silent.

Then they came for the HTTPS.
I figured I could live without SSH like in the 90’s, so I remained silent.

Then they came for the Linux, the open source, the creative commons.
By this point Windows 10 and government approved culture was everywhere, and there was nobody left to speak up.

My_Name_Here says:

Re: Re: Foot in the door

Boo hoo, it’s the same slippery slope message on everything. It’s just not real.

Your home ISP is no different from a hosting company when you are sharing files. Your hosting company would ToS your account in seconds and toss you out, and your ISP has the same right and even in some ways the same legal obligation.

A hosting company wouldn’t let you run a pirate site for very long, why should your ISP be different?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Foot in the door

Because there’s a massive difference between stuff you post up on a publicly available site and people spying on every private communication you have?

To use a flawed analogy – there’s a big difference between getting shut down because you’re shouting on a soap box in a mall and having the phone company shut you off because of the conversation you’re having – even if the speech itself is the same in both of those cases.

If you can’t understand the difference, perhaps consider listening to the arguments rather than justifying all sorts of crap just because you don’t like the actions it’s currently being sold on preventing – which, it doesn’t, by the way. One of the issues here is always that these actions are utterly ineffective, but will lead to abuses in other areas once permitted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Probably worth mentioning that Sky is a company that is only a hair’s breadth away from being majority-owned by the same media empire as 20th Century Fox (among others) so they’re much closer to being a US-style “content provider” ISP, as opposed to the majority of UK ISPs, who are much more the “dumb pipe” variety of ISP.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So the magic software that can tell it was the name of the person on the bill who dl’ed the file & not just someone else using the connection will also name the software that Sky should monitor for and disrupt service for the customer that pays them.

One is starting to think that allowing corporate law to flourish should be answered by nationalizing internet access so a few large cartels can’t apply undue pressure on citizens who might be innocent but technically inept.

Anonymous Coward says:

Remember this is SKY BROADBAND..they’re the guys who capped every single customer for FIVE YEARS at 2mbps, but uncapped benchmarking websites such as

They then lied to their own staff about the forced capping, so staff were telling thousands of customers “look it works at 18mbps on MUST be your PC at fault”.

Then for really pushy customers they introduced a tool to uncap the speed by switching the customer to a ‘gaming profile’
(in reality exactly the same settings but not capped at 2mbps).

They got fined MILLIONS for this practice, but as the profits are higher than the fines, still do it to this day, just with slightly quicker ‘uncap’ rates.

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