ISP Claims Not To Be “Online Police”, Leaves Piracy Talks

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iinetBy IT-Lex Intern Emily Pineless (LinkedIn)

It has long been the practice of internet service providers to go along with the entertainment industry’s requests and identify alleged pirates. We’ve talked about the six-strikes program here in the U.S., which has the unconditional backing of the major American ISPs, and will require the providers to educate and handle persistent offenders. Last month, Australian company iiNet became the first ISP to publicly stand up against Hollywood, when it withdrew from negotiations with the industry. It’s a bold step, and it will be fascinating to see whether more ISPs follow iiNet’s lead.

iiNet’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Steve Dalby, offered two big reasons why his company would no longer play by Hollywood’s rules. Firstly, he suggests that the entertainment industry’s requirements are overly invasive and burdensome on his company:

“iiNet won’t support any scheme that forces ISPs to retain data in order to allow for the tracking of customer behavior and the status of any alleged infringements against them. Collecting and retaining additional customer data at this level is inappropriate, expensive and most importantly, not our responsibility.”

Related is the second reason. Essentially, he argues, iiNet’s function is a service provider and as such, its focus should be on improving its service and optimizing its customers’ experience, and not monitoring customers in order to report them to the authorities :

“It’s not iiNet’s job to play online police. The High Court spoke loud and clear in their verdict when they ruled categorically that ISPs have no obligation to protect the rights of third parties, and we’re not prepared to harass our customers when the industry has no clear obligation to do so[.]”

For some time, the Australian Attorney General’s Department has promoted negotiations between rights holders and ISPs to monitor subscribers’ online activity and send notifications to those committing copyright infringement. Dalby explains that the entertainment industry’s business model is outdated because it was developed over a century ago long before the Internet made everything much more accessible. He feels that:

“If piracy is to be reduced then work has to be done to bring timely and reasonably-priced content to online consumers.”

How does this affect us in the United States? Under the imminent “Six-Strikes” program, ISPs are expected to monitor and notify its customers that they are illegally downloading copyrighted material. As TorrentFreak points out, the concern remains that:

“the data voluntarily retained by ISPs could end up being used to file lawsuits against customers.”

It seems unlikely that any of our ISPs will play such a daring move as iiNet’s, but we’ll see what happens once the program comes into effect.

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