Monday, November 01, 2004

WE BET THEY DO: The BPI is keen for the "hardcore" filesharers it's targetting to keep the RIAA happy to settle out of court - and we can understand why it might feel it better for them to hand over cash without having to make any sort of a case in front of a judge and a jury. It might be interesting for you to know - if you're thinking of changing your ISP or upgrading to Broadband any time soon - that BT Openworld, Wanadoo, Telewest and NTL have gleefully handed over their customer's private contact details to the BPI, a self-appointed trade association.

The BPI had insisted that they were going after "hardcore" file sharers, although it turns out that the "worst" offender was only allowing access to a folder with nine thousand tunes in, which makes you wonder what the BPI thinks "hardcore" means - doubtless they blush when they see Page 3 because they think it's hardcore porn; and they think the Birdie Song is hardcore dance.


Gary said...

Simon, I think you're being harsh on the ISPs here: they haven't "gleefully" handed over the details; they've been hit with a court order that compels them to do it. Such orders override anything else - data protection act, privacy policies, whatever - and any refusal would simply result in them getting sued, and forced to hand over the data anyway.

Incidentally, the subscriber copies of PC Format went out today - the issue you're quoted in - and it should be on the streets in a few days. It's not quite what I wrote, because I was on holiday when the situation changed from "we're convinced they'll sue" to "they have sued" but it's close :)

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Okay, maybe "gleefully" is a bit unfair, but my understanding is the BPI demanded names and numbers, and the ISPs - rather than saying "Well, we think it's an unfair request and we will resist" said "Okay, but can you go and get a court order so we can cover our asses for ripping up the privacy agreements we signed with our customers?"

It's not surprising - big companies stick together - but it would have been refreshing if at least one had said "We don't think that it's right." They folded at the first whiff of a request.

Gary said...

I'm not sure. Certainly the day after I got the BPI's press release about the lawsuits I got a follow-up from them about winning the court order, which gave ISPs 28 days to comply; I think that period ran out at the end of October, so it does look as if the request came backed with the weight of the courts.

There's another issue here, too: for years ISPs have battled to be treated as telcos, ie. they can't be held responsible for the things their users do on the network. Standing up to the BPI on this could jeopardise that, which would be a very big deal indeed - not least because in future the BPI (or anyone else with a beef) could simply sue the ISPs for contributory copyright infringement rather than having to locate individual users and get the courts to OK the disclosure of their identities. And that would have ramifications far beyond music sharing.

It's all a bit of a mess.

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