Digital Economy Bill – printer accused of illegal downloads

The cogs of Government continue to grind. I know many of you yawn at some of these regulatory posts but man cannot live on network diagrams alone. The 5th day of the Digital Economy Bill House of Lords Committee stage was held yesterday.

No non-Government amendments made it through but a number of important concessions were made.

Clause 11 in particular concerns “Obligations to limit internet access”. The brakes are being put on this in that no order to cut off someone’s internet access could be made until 12 months after Ofcom has looked at this issue and come up with a Code of Practice.

It is now also proposed that it becomes a requirement, as opposed to an option, for the Secretary of State to request a report from Ofcom on the “suitability of a technical obligation”, ie whether a consumer gets cut off in a particular instance (I assume).

There will also be full appeals process which could be heard by a tribunal before any technical measure is imposed. It will still lead to a pretty messy situation downstream even if it delays the day of reckoning.

Note this is still not backed up by any sign of copyright licensing reform that will make it easier to download music in a legal manner.

There is a lot more to read about but you can do that yourselves here – if you have a few hours to spare and don’t mind finishing up with a headache. Despite all the glamour and the luxury expense fuelled living  🙂 a lot of what MPs do is deadly boring and is reported in such technical legalese as to make it often undecipherable to the “man on the street”.

It is worth noting something else. ISPs regularly receive “abuse” reports from Rights Holders. These letters informing an ISP of supposed illegal downloading activity from one of their customers’ IP Addresses

At last week’s UKNetwork Operators Forum (UKNOF) meeting a representative of Janet, the UK Education network, said that of the ‘abuse’ reports they received last year, 10% turned out to be for the IP addresses of printers, 15% were address space that wasn’t actually being used and 50% only had a 0 second interval for the time that material was being offered for download.

By this token, and I admit only in this anecdotal case, 75% of the supposed illegal activity would never pass scrutiny. This suggests that it is going to be very difficult for anyone to determine the validity of such an assertion by a Rights Holder, be they a judge, ISP or anyone else. There is no way an ISP would want to get involved with this without someone picking up the costs and being fully indemnified.

Published by Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of trefor.net, writer, poet, philosopherontap.com

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  1. Trefor Davies

2 Comments

  1. The guy from JANET was under the impression that going forward they would be exempt from the final Digital Economy Act as they don’t provide broadband and cutting off an entire university would be an over the top action.

  2. It matters not really – anyone could have the same issues, certainly the 0 second interval. I just checked actually and our own abuse reports (on a sample of one) show a 1 second timestamp. It is just showing that someone was downloading a file at a specifit point in time although I guess of it was for zero seconds then it might be arguable that it was physically impossible to download anything.

    I don’t see why Janet should be exempt anyway if everyone else is subject to the law. A student downloading files in a hall of residence is really no difference to a student sat in his bedroom at home.

    One might, on a completely different note, ask why Janet is using public IP addresses for printers etc.

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