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Illegal Downloading to cause UK Internet Ban?

February 12th, 2008 at 18:22 by Dave Tomlinson

The government is apparently considering legislation that could cause ISPs to block access to the Internet to customers that that download illegally.

Reported in the Times' Internet users could be banned over illegal downloads article and in Illegal downloaders 'face UK ban' from the BBC, the "leaked" document suggests that a "three strike" rule would be in place, first a warning, second a suspension and finally termination.

What isn't clear is who polices what is considered illegal or not and detects what customers are doing. Our traffic management systems can see the protocols that customers are using but it doesn't look at the content. We can see that a customer is downloading via BitTorrent but we don't currently know whether he or she is legally downloading the latest World of Warcraft patch or illegally downloading this week's episode of Lost.

Presumably to implement this legislation each ISP will have to develop/purchase systems that can detect illegal downloads.

We've mentioned these people before, Audible Magic, they have such a system that can detect copyright material within P2P downloads. There are a few limitations though, what does it do when it sees an encrypted BitTorrent stream for example? According to our data around 40% of BitTorrent traffic is now encrypted and that figure is growing. Also what does it do with other types of download such as HTTP, FTP or Usenet? All of these can also be encrypted. But if you have such a system in place that can detect illegal downloads, in realtime, what then is the purpose of the three strike system? Surely it makes more sense in this situation to just block the illegal download than to go to the trouble of banning people from the Internet? Why knowingly let someone download something illegally and then slap them with a ban?

Of course detecting illegal downloads in realtime would require a definitive list of copyrighted material that's updated on a near real time basis. Who's going to be responsible for creating and maintaining that list? And does the ISP then become liable if copyright material is missed? If not surely any loophole will make such a law un-implementable?

The BBC's iPlayer let's you watch shows from the last 7 days but what if someone watches a show that's available on iPlayer from another source? Is that an illegal download? Should they be banned from the Internet?

How's a ban actually going to work? Does the ISP just cease the broadband on the line and do nothing else? Can that customer then just sign up with another ISP? Would the bans work on households, individuals, phone numbers, credit card numbers or something else? I can see all manner of troubles if a household or number is banned and a new person that moves in can't signup to an ISP.

Another factor mentioned in the articles is who arbitrates over these decisions? Someone is accused of illegally downloading copyright material which they believe to be incorrect what do they do? Raise it with the ISP or an independent body? Who pays for the arbitration?

What about cases where someone is watching clips on say YouTube from TV shows (many of which are there quite legitimately) but click on one that wasn't authorised by the copyright holder. Is that considered an illegal download?

We spoke about The Pirate Bay being blocked in Denmark yesterday; is this the way the UK government want us to go? Problem is that something like BitTorrent is often likened to a hydra. Cut off one head (block one site) and another and another will take its place. How can something like that be taken into account? And what of the BitTorrent sites that offer legal downloads? Are the blocked too? Or only if they offer a mix of legal and illegal downloads?

We and other ISPs want to work with the content providers, we can see that there has to be a better model. iTunes, Napster and others have proven there is a market out there, iPlayer usage shows that people will view TV online. There has to be a legal alternative to illegal downloads that will make people want to switch rather than spending what could be billions of pounds on a system for banning people from the Internet which on one hand is bound to miss a massive proportion of illegal downloads and on the other could end up with significant numbers of false positives.

We are also happy to speak to the government about what is technically feasible, cost effective and takes the consumer interest into account too. Any legislation in this area is always going to be tough but the views of the media company executives aren't the only point of view and a fair and balanced outcome for all is what's needed here.


This entry was posted by Dave Tomlinson on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 at 6:22 pm and is tagged with and is posted in the category Traffic Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

21 comments on "Illegal Downloading to cause UK Internet Ban?"

One of the difficulties with this system is that as soon as the law would come into force the programmers who make the p2ps could easily update their software using encryption technology to make it impossible to see what the user is downloading. Just seems it'll be a waste of money as the only things they would be able to trace would be mp3s through e-mail etc. As with everything people try to do to stop piracy the pirates will find a way round it.


It's another smoke screen from a failing government. Another badly thought through initiative. The current government is full of these crazy schemes. Just look at the flak GP's are coming under ATM! Did I also hear this morning that children in our schools are being promised an extra 5 hours of 'high culture'? Have the teachers been made aware of this?
What are these government types like for god sake?


The current government just has no idea how the internet works - check out the recent Tory MP with his plans to create a two tier internet *. We're not far from 'the internet is a series of tubes' here.

Quite apart from the technical side of things, how can it make sense that one delivery channel (the physical post) is completely protected from anyone seeing the contents and one channel is increasingly subject to demands to peer into the darkest corners of every packet (the internet).


I did a big old blog post about this today:

... which you may or may not like. But I enjoyed writing how it should either apply to absolutely every single method of transmitting data or to nothing at all.

It's all about profits if the Music & Film industry's got rid of the copyrights & put their own recordable cd's & dvd's onto the market they would soon see a rise in profits. They could make piracy pay in their favour by making it legal. They could also put artists & actors signatures into certain origional dvd's & cd's their profit margin would simply go through the roof. As everybody knows in time to come copys are worthless compared to the origional cd & dvd. The Music & Film industry have already got the utilities to do this. They will surely get the public backing if they do so. They could turn piracy around in their favour all they have to do is put it to the test.

How much would people pay for an origional signature of an actor or music artist. Or what if it was like playing the lottery and there was only one real signature of that artist/actor in a origional cd/dvd. How many cd's or dvd's could the film & music industry sell. (Qustion) How much profit would they make. (Answer) probably more than they have ever made. By putting recordable cd's & dvd's onto the market from the film & music industry they will still be making money. So that means no profit loss No foul. They could easily snatch up the little companys that have already got cd's & dvd's out there already. That means big buisness big money. Or make the government divide the sales of all cd's & dvd's go to the music & film industry plus the software companies also. Thats recordable cd's & dvd's by the way.

The Music industry could put win tickets to see your favourite artist now playing at.....

The Film industry could put win tickets to meet your favourite actor now appearing at.....

The software companies could give away software, games, win cinema tickets.

Or they could join forces & put all kinds of fancy stuff in to sell recordable media to everybody. Then they all get great profits. But aswell as having great profits there giving people a choice either to buy origionals or to have a copy of the origional. I would prefer either the copy or origional but the origional is sometimes the best bet especially when it comes to software especially if it's games or antivirus Because copys mess up. But please could you make the origional software cheaper and the games as there nearly the same price as a laptop or a games console its a bit stupid really. Please pass these message's to all companys involved.

How much does it actually cost the RIAA/MPAA & the BPI to take people to court ? Why not put the court costs to another perspective & use their own EMI,Sony etc to produce their own recordable cd's & dvd's onto the market. Wouldn't that bring more money into the music & film industry than to take more money out by taking people to court. If the music & film industry is taking such a beating by piracy then why not make piracy legal & put their own recordable media/software onto the markets for people to still buy from them surely that would be a better alternative than to use silly money in taking people to court, surely that means if the RIAA/MPAA & the BPI are taking people to court they are losing more of their profits & losing all available funds to them by doing so. The RIAA/MPAA & the BPI already have the resources to put their own media/software onto the markets isn't it cheaper for them to put blank cd's/dvd's out onto markets that they still could make a profit from or convertable software to change an mp3 to wma or dvd to avi or viser versa. Wouldn't that boost sales rather than decrease them. Most people would rather pay for a name than pay for a no name. Children are always asked to share sweets, crisps & biscuits etc so whats wrong with a little sharing surely a profit can be made out of it some where. There is no need for greed sellfishness a perfect world or industry is a place of share & share alike. Greed leads to bankruptcy as prices go high consumers stop buying as their is some one who is smaller & cheaper some where else. Take Sony & Nintendo both have game consoles but yet Nintendo wii is cheaper than Sony ps3 people see the cheaper version a better value for money. So the cheaper it is the better it is. Same for music & movies the cheaper the music is the more it sells the cheaper & more action a film has the better it is & the more it will sell. That still doesn't mean that it wouldn't hurt to share a little.


i hear you..

Does this need to be done?

I hope they never get this power to pull the plug on internet users who share files, I resent having to pay up to 25 pounds for a cd in the high street!
im sick of paying 130 pounds a year to the bbc for dull censored out of date programmes and right wing bighest news ,then being told to pay per view just for the level of qualitie we used to see for our money before any way.
and every time my license expires I get a patronising ,threating red letter in the mail! well ive paid my licence for 12 years that runs into thousands of pounds!
so please tell me why when i wish to buy a dvd of an ancient bbc comedy like black adder or red dwarf I am not entitled to a discount?
I have already paid towards the production after all? so why is it 25 pounds?
Well luckly I can read korean and japanese and I watch and listen to what I want when I want for free I can watch anything I saw 300 before it was released then I bought it second hand because it was ok. I watched king kong it was very very poor so I did not buy it.
I watched easten was so good I bought it brand new from the shop.
so in short try before you buy! it means that lazy crap producers can not just sit behind a load of CGI effects and make huge profits from disapointed film fans.
This goverment and its close ifilates in monopolistic companys like the bbc as well as BT and others are scratching each others backs, slowly threading out a net that is strangling peoples civil liberties and consumer rights and. In order to achive two things
for the goverment it is about seeing how much of a tool the computer can be to control and monitor peoples lives and keep people in there place.
for the large companys its about preventing consumer choice and strangling the small artists and producers

dont see the point isps upgrading their bandwidth etc mean ive got 20mb so i dont really need it to surf yahoo britain pays dearer than anyone for cds dvds etc now we have to pay the price for downlodidng and most of it bloody crap, get real lower the bloody prices that people can afford

A friend of mine recently got a letter from virgin media warning him about file sharing, it told him the time, date and more importantly exactly what he had been downloading! They even had the cheek to say he had to phone the company to apologise or his services would be terminated. Personally if it was me I would tell them where to stick that letter and go to another ISP!!

hehe. Remeber when illegal downloads wasnt that much of a problem? new games were typically £40. now they are forced to reduce it.... GOOD. Serves them right for being to greedy. But now that there is something intimidating their riches, they're forcing action... Whats happening to them is what was happening to the consumers, except now the consumers have the upper foot, dont remember anyone putting this much effort to prevent consumers getting ripped off. But what really pissed me off was when i went and bought a movie, village i think, because the trailer on TV looked really good, but it turned out to be sooooooo crap made me wanna puke. So i just wastd my hard earned cash in the hopes of just sitting down relaxing and watching a decent movie. Where's the movie now? in the garbage yard somewhere... so i threw a good £20 in the bin.Now if every movie was like independence day or armegeddon, then i would gladly spend £20 for it, it would also have its own place on my shelf.
The funny thing is, they are trying to accomplish the impossible, and what are the ISPs thinking? If they try and intimidate users of their internet then customers will just stop using their services and either go to a provider which is still not doing anything to prevent this or just hack and "leech" off someone elses connection to download (those who know how, and it is becoming easier). And that you can never stop. The struggle with pirates and hackers has infinite potential it will never end and the only ones losing money are the corporations funding this kind of "crackdown". Also it will give way to a new level of hacking. They have to find a way to work with the flow as the above posters have suggested. File sharing appears to be a new era. It will happen.

At the end of the day it's is a waiste of time trying to stop downloading. at the end of the day the british people get ripped off on everything. so if if the products available for sale where at a good price of around £3-£4 then people would pay for that but when there wanting us to pay £13-£15 for a single film then of cause we're going to download the film for less than a £. if they can't stop downloading why not allow it but charge a couple of pound to do it and then companys still make money and we can still get what we want with good copies rather than tat which is what we're forced to do now!!!

its a law that means we have to pay to get music that we cant even find properly


With P2P I always restrict downloads/uploads to seeders who encrypt their data.
I get more seeders that way.

BTW This will mean that ISP's can't use the carrier only defence, if they deliver "illegal" or defamatory material about a person, since they will be monitoring all communications.

lol it cant happen atm and probly never especialy as with mobile broadband there is a different way of assigning ips so it is untrackable so hahhaahah


@danny, care to elaborate? Mobile broadband operators still have to assign IP's and an IP can only be assigned to one account at any given time. All the provider would need to do is identify who was leased that IP at the time it was being used to commit an 'offense'. Having said that, there's *always* going to be ways to circumvent policies like the ones described in the original article above.

[...] responded to the idea of operating a “three strike” idea of disconnecting illegal file sharers which Talk Talk have already rejected while Virgin are in discussion about implementing it as a [...]


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