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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2017 @ 3:30pm

    Well that's gonna be a boon to the VPN industry in the UK.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 3:30pm

    Manipulation

    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:

    Tails
    Other Linux Distro's
    LibreOffice

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2017 @ 9:51pm

      Re: Manipulation

      You shouldn't be using that software either. Good citizens use Windows 10. If you continue with this bullshit you may be required to immediately uninstall all of your non-government software.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2017 @ 10:51am

        Re: Re: Manipulation

        Or, we will mandate that you join ayour computer to the citizens.uk.gov 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".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 3:52pm

    File sharing software... like your browser? Just remove all browsers from your systems and your internet connection will be uninterrupted.

    Well-played, Sky. Well-played. Everything now must be done via official "apps".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2017 @ 4:08pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2017 @ 12:38am

      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".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 14 Feb 2017 @ 6:28am

      Re:

      Yeah but the thing is, it's not the ISPs doing the monitoring of the Bit Torrent networks. It's a 3rd party company called Markmonitor. The ISPs are just the messenger.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2017 @ 5:37pm

    France, New Zealand, the United States...

    Given enough time, and the UK alert system will be removed, after having an effect on piracy akin to a sheet of one-ply toilet paper fluttering in a raging tornado.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 6:18pm

    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.

    Currently.

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 14 Feb 2017 @ 4:32am

      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.


      Source: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2017/ten-years-jail-for-file-sharers-the-governments-gift-to-co pyright-trolls

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 14 Feb 2017 @ 5:51am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        My_Name_Here, 14 Feb 2017 @ 4:37pm

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 12:51am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mr Big Content, 13 Feb 2017 @ 7:13pm

    Your Being To Kind Too Teh Pirates

    Forget all these second chances and demands for so-called "proof". THEIR GUILTY, THATS ALL YOU NEED TOO KNOW. I say throw them up and lock away the key.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2017 @ 1:03am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Feb 2017 @ 3:35am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      spodula, 14 Feb 2017 @ 3:47am

      Re:

      Nope, the message says specifically "Copyrighted material has been shared using your broadband connection".
      It doesnt mention any individual users at all.

      As for if they can disrupt it or not. It really depends on Sky's TOS.

      Sending an email isnt you disrupting it, they can tell you to be more careful with it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:52am

    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 speedtest.net.

    They then lied to their own staff about the forced capping, so staff were telling thousands of customers "look it works at 18mbps on speedtest.net..it 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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