End User piracy

Pirate Bay now, what next?

Pirate Bay to be blocked in the UKI’ve just been on the Pirate Bay website. It looks decidedly dodgy. Ads for pornography and flashing boxes inviting you to “fix it now”. Not been on it before. Thought I’d do so before the court order kicks in.

Today a court told the biggest consumer ISPs to block access for their customers to the Pirate Bay website. Most ISPs are not affected by the order but now most consumers in the UK wanting to access the “services” provided by Pirate Bay will have to do so using encrypted paths provided by proxy servers or by accessing a mirror of the Pirate Bay site.

There is a twitter account specifically set up to provide updates of where you can find mirrors. They don’t

Business ofcom piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Ofcom update on Digital Economy Act implementation timescales – slipped to Q1 2014 #DEAct

It seems a long time ago now, the passing of the Digital Economy Act. It’s easy to remember how long because it was rushed through just before the last general election and I’m sure that global historical events such as the re-emergence of a Liberal government (only joking) are amongst the list of dates you remember exactly what you were doing when “it” happened.

The assassination of JFK and 9/11 are the other two that spring to mind although others may well have other memorable dates – outbreak of WW2 etc. Note I don’t actually remember the JFK assassination, I was too young, but it is always one of the ones quoted.

Ofcom has updated ISPA and have said that the code of practice still has to go through various stages:

Business online safety piracy Regs

Government plans to track emails and websites visited – my take

The fuss in the media today regarding the government’s plan to make Internet Service Providers capture personal communications data is nothing new. It was brought up under the last Labour government as the “Intercept Modernisation Programme” and received heavy criticism from the Tory party in opposition.

Now with the responsibility of government the conservatives seem to have seen things differently and the word is that the forthcoming Queen’s speech will contain measures to enable the collection of personal information that includes who you have telephoned and emailed or have received emails from and which websites you have visited. The details of what is being sent in the emails isn’t being asked for at this time.

Apart from the obvious privacy issues

Business Cloud datacentre piracy Regs

Protest against #SOPA #TimicoDC

The Stop Online Piracy Act SOPA bill is being considered by legislators in the USA as a means of combating online copyright infringement.  “The bill is so over broad and badly written that it is going to impact all kinds of things that don’t have anything to do with stopping piracy” –  Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia.

In the UK we are constantly under threat by Governments that latch on to the idea that they can solve specific problems by “controlling” the internet. Witness the Digital Economy Act plus a number of subsequent calls for the blocking of access to websites by a range of different stakeholders.

This is not to say that this blog supports the use of the internet for unlawful activities. It is however important to recognise that the phenomenal growth of the internet and, by definition, of the world wide web, has only been possible because of its openness. SOPA seeks to control this openness and will kill it.

Follow the discussion on Twitter using #SOPA

I had intended to switch off the blog tomorrow,  Wednesday 18th January 2012 in support of the Wikipedia protest1.

Unfortunately this clashes with the Grand Opening of the new Timico Datacentre in Newark. Timico has invested around 15% of its turnover in this project. For us it is a serious bet too important an event to have any distractions on the day.

I will be posting photos of the day on the blog as soon as the speeches are over and the champagne has stopped flowing. I’m the shy guy hovering in the background guy looking uncomfortable in a suit.

You will also be able to follow the day on Twitter using #TimicoDC – the stream appears in the sidebar of the blog if you prefer to stay here 🙂  Oh and by the way, as of tomorrow the datacentre is officially open – you know where to come if you need colo, dedicated servers or VMs. Drop me a line at [email protected] if you want to know more.

I am also offering personal guided tours to readers of the blog (fwiw 🙂 ) – drop me a line if you want to come and see the facility including our brand new state of the art Network Operations Centre.

Finally comments on this blog are Twitter enabled – sign in with Twitter and a tweet will be sent with a link to your comment and quoting the #TimicoDC hashtag. If you want to help spread the news please comment using this facility.

1 Wikipedia is being switched off for the day to illustrate what it would be like if it was blocked.

Business piracy

Who will sue who next?

Good old BT has stepped into the litigation fray and is suing Google for patent infringement. Yay. It doesn’t seem like yesterday that BT was in court trying to extract cash from US ISP Prodigy over its use of HTTP links.

What a world this is becoming. I recognise that Intellectual Property needs protection but it does seem at times that the feeding frenzy is doing nobody any good other than a global community of lawyers .

You can almost picture the scene, the birds of prey (legal eagles),  hovering at a safe distance, kept aloft by the thermal currents rising from the technology battlefield below.  If anyone wants to draw me a cartoon depicting this I will stick it in this post 🙂

It would be interesting to see how much the average price of a smart phone is driven up by the overhead incurred in legal fees spent defending patent litigation.

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Sky blocks Newsbin2 too @edvaizey #deact #Chumbawumba, #MichaelJackson #JarvisCocker #Adele

I note that further to the court order presented to BT to block file sharing promoter Newsbin2 Sky is now also doing so. I have covered this a fair bit of late here here and here .

It is anticipated that all major consumer ISPs will get the same court order. It would be useful to measure the effectiveness of this activity. It will also be interesting to see whether Newsbin2 clones/mirrors will surface as  was the case with Wikileaks and Pirate Bay although to my knowledge Newsbin2 is only being blocked in the UK (happy to be corrected here). Furthermore it will be useful to see how much growth there is in encrypted traffic out of the UK following these court orders.

Newsbin2 is itself a phoenixed version of Newsbin.

Coincidentally in the House of Commons

Business piracy surveillance & privacy

EU Court of Justice rules it illegal to block “illegal” file downloading #Scarlet #SABAM

The EU Court of Justice has ruled that it is illegal to block copyright infringing file downloading on the basis of  the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information.

This  concludes a long running (2007) Scarlet-SABAM court case in which  Scarlet, a Belgian ISP was ordered by a national court to implement technical measures to block all P2P traffic that infringes rights held by the Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SABAM). The ruling also supplements a previous legal opinion on the subject by a EU High Court Judge that was not in itself binding in law.

This is a major milestone in the online Intellectual Property/Copyright saga and must surely bring into question the recent Newsbin2 judgement in which BT was required by a court to block access to the website that promotes the unlawful distribution of copyrighted material.

Proponents of internet blocking have already recently been acknowledging that in itself web-filtering is not a silver bullet. This is a softening of their previous hard line though it hasn’t stopped them seeking to implement filtering as “Newsbin2” shows. With today’s judgement from the European Court of Justice will this finally stop  Rights Holders attempting to do this?

It will be interesting to see what happens next…

PS I am not against the ownership of Intellectual Property but this whole subject needs approaching in a fair and proportionate manner.

Business Net piracy Regs

Has BT got rural broadband market stitched up? Geo thinks so

Fibre networking company Geo today withdrew from BDUK’s Broadband Framework and from future NGA procurements. Rather than simply regurgitating Geo’s Press Release on the subject you can read it yourselves here. In summary though Geo is saying that BT has this market stitched up.

I have to say I feel sorry for UK citizens living in “the final third”. You can’t blame BT – they are just looking after the interests of their shareholders. I think you can blame the Government which is taking the easy route. Admittedly foremost in the mind of the Government will be cash, or lack of it and the need to be seen to be spending it wisely.  BT appears to have done a good lobbying1  job in persuading the establishment that sticking with BT is in everyone best interest.

It will be worth seeing how other players hoping for a slice of this market progress. This seems a good time to revisit the idea of splitting Openreach away from BT and turning it into a mutual, owned by the ISP industry.

That’s all.

1  This is in stark contrast to some situations such as the Digital Economy Act where BT did a very poor lobbying job and is now paying the price.

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

@EdVaizey opens up web blocking talks to wider stakeholder community #deact

There has been widespread criticism of discussions being held between the ISP industry and RightsHolders over the latter’s desire to effect blocking of websites being seen to promote copyright infringement. It is natural. An activity conducted behind closed doors is bound to arouse suspicion.

The latest of these meetings happened yesterday but today communications minister Ed Vaizey chaired a session that allowed alternative voices to be heard.

Present at the meeting were representatives of the Taxpayers Alliance, Open Rights Group,Pirate Party,COADEC, Open Digital, Featured Artists Coalition,LINX and of course me.

I think Ed Vaizey found the level of debate far more constructive than he had been expecting. The gist was

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Priorities for the new Communications Bill #deappg BSkyB Guardian Google

I attended a Forum last week entitled “The industry priorities for the new Communications Bill”. We were given a ten minute talk by representatives from each of the BBC, C4, COBA (Commercial Broadcasters Assoc), Wall to Wall (independent media prod’n), Virgin Media, Google, BSkyB, BT, ITV, UKTV, Mobile Broadband Group, Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (ie video games) and Guardian Media Group. Quite top heavy with content production.

It is interesting to note that in the last Communications Act (2004) the word internet does not appear. This may be because the government of the day wanted to avoid regulation in a nascent market – let it grow unhindered. Whilst the talk is still of light touch and self regulation I can’t help get the feeling that this time round there is a big shadow of government looming over the proceedings.

A few themes came out of the meeting.

The market needs to provide a level playing field that allows competition and encourages investment. This may include addressing issues that allows UK plc to compete in a global market – regulation overseas is often different to that in the UK and can cause difficulties for UK companies trying to operate globally.

Some content providers were calling for increased regulation to protect Intellectual property. There were interesting contrasts here:

David Wheeldon of BSkyB believed that the government should go further than it had in the DEAct to combat IP piracy and seemed to robustly reject some aspects of the Hargreaves Report (“it should be up to Rights Holders not government to decide how to exploit their IP”).

On the other hand Andrew Miller, CEO of the Guardian Media Group recognised that content provider organisations needed to adapt to the changes in modern technology and society to survive. For example in the UK The Guardian is seen as the 3rd or 4th biggest newspaper. However the Guardian websites gets 50 million unique visitors a month and is a recognised and trusted global source of comment and opinion. The Guardian Media Group is clearly trying to move with the times.

If I were the government putting this Bill together I would be focussing on what will help UK plc to grow in the global market and to avoid making it in the words of Google’s Head of UK Public Policy, Sarah Hunter “a dumping ground for regulations as appears to have been the case with the Digital Economy Act”.

There are 2 years of deliberations before this Bill makes it to law. We need to make sure that we get this one right and not leave it to a last minute indecent rush as happened with the DEAct.

Business online safety piracy Regs security

SilkRoad FTTC and Bitcoin!

Interesting to note that 8 out of the top ten keywords for visitors to this blog over the last month have been related to either FTTC or silkroad with 4 each.

I can understand the FTTC interest and I was an early writer on this subject so get decent Google rankings. As far as SilkRoad goes either there is not much written out there about the subject or there are huge numbers of people trying to find out more about it – human nature I guess!

As far as Bitcoin goes the underground currency seems to have recovered following the Mt. Gox crash. My original source for info seems to have stopped publishing at the time of the crash – 19th June. However it is now visible elsewhere and is trading at not far off the levels seen at Mt.Gox before the crash (for what it’s worth!).

PS whilst the two subjects seem totally separate FTTC and SilkRoad do obviously inhabit the same online universe. People will be using FTTC to access Bitcoin trading sources. I’m not sure that we will ever see the day when BT accepts payment for FTTC using Bitcoin though.

piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

#DEAct Early Day Motion needs your MP’s support

MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert has proposed an EDM entitled “Disconnection Of Users From The Internet” which calls up the report of the Special Rapporteur on Free Expression, Frank de la Rue, to the Human Rights Council of United Nations.

The report, covered last week on this blog comes out against web blocking and expresses  `alarm’ at the Digital Economy Act 2010.

This is an opportunity for you to chase your MP to get him or her to sign up and support this motion.  If you don’t know what his is about search for the DEAct on this blog.

Business internet online safety piracy security

Psst wanna buy a racehorse? #silkroad #bitcoin #torproject


Yesterday I read a flurry of reports on a new web service called silk road. This is a “totally anonymous” website that looks like it has initially been set up to facilitate drug deals. Payments are made using Bitcoin, a “virtual” digital currency that allows “untraceable” transactions to be made using distributed Peer to Peer technology.

A quick Google search for Silk Road last night revealed nothing but changing search terms this morning I found it.The first result took me to the following post:

Hi everyone,

Silk Road is into it’s third week after launch and I am very pleased with the results. There are several sellers and buyers finding mutually agreeable prices, and as of today, 28 transactions have been made!

For those who don’t know, Silk Road is an anonymous online market.

Of course, it is in its infant stages and I have many ideas about where to go with it. But I am turning to you, the community, to give me your input and to have a say in what direction it takes.

What is missing? What works? What do you want to see created? What obstacles do you see for the future of Silk Road? What opportunities?

The general mood of this community is that we are up to something big, something that can really shake things up. Bitcoin and Tor are revolutionary and sites like Silk Road are just the beginning.

I don’t want to put anyone in a box with my ideas, so I will let you take it from here…

-Silk Road staff

This is a fairly astonishing post in itself. It was published on 1st March and has since then attracted 36 pages of responses and comments.You can see for yourselves.

Business ofcom piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

A look at Hargreaves from the #DEAct perspective – a year too late #DEAPPG

Hargreaves report as applied to the Digital Economy Act

The Hargreaves Report, entitled Digital Opportunity, A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, has already been extensively covered in a land rush of people wanting to get an early comment out there. The feedback has generally been good though not from all quarters as this response from the Business Software Alliance shows.

It is difficult to provide objective comment on the report without simply been seen to be replicating parts of it as its 130 pages are well written and provide their own concise summary. Also the document took 5 months to compile and a 30 minute read is not going to result in an analysis that would not be bettered by reading the report itself.

It was however interesting to note that the first point brought out by Prof Hargreaves was something I wrote about yesterday following the Nominet Policy Forum which is the need to base policy on evidence:

“Government should ensure that development of the IP System is driven as far as possible by objective evidence.”

“The frequency of major reviews of IP (four in the last six years) indicates the shortcomings of the UK system. In the 1970s, the Banks Review deplored the lack of evidence to support policy judgments, as did the Gowers Review five years ago. Of the 54 recommendations advanced by Gowers, only 25 have been implemented. On copyright issues, lobbying on behalf of rights owners has been more persuasive to Ministers than economic impact assessments”

He specifically highlights the lack of evidence when addressing the problem of online copyright infringement:

“The uncertain and disputed nature of the prevalence data makes it difficult to reach confident conclusions about the impact of copyright piracy on growth. This assessment is complicated further by a number of other relevant points:

  • not all illegal downloads are lost sales – the user may not have paid a higher price for a legal copy absent cheap or free illegal versions;
  • money not spent on legal copies is not lost to the economy – it may be spent on other purchases. This is of no comfort to the sector suffering losses, but the effects across the economy will not necessarily be problematic;
  • even within the industry affected, purchases prompted by experience from an illegal copy (for example, concert tickets or other merchandise) can offset losses; “

“Most experts we spoke with and the literature we reviewed observed that despite significant efforts, it is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the net effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy as a whole.”

Hargreaves concluded that the government should not “do nothing” re this particular problem but that Ofcom should urgently go about building an evidence mechanism that will be useful in determining the efficacy of the measures proposed in the Digital Economy Act – because it plainly is not there yet.

To a large extent Hargreaves has performed the due diligence that was not done during the passing of the Digital Economy Act. It is a shame it is a year too late.

You can download the report here – as government sponsored studies go it is one of the better reads.

I have cherry picked more of the report as pertains to the Digital Economy Act here if you want to save yourself the trouble:

End User piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Judge says IP address alone not enough to prove guilt #DEAct #DEAPPG @edvaizey

US judge Harold Baker has denied a rights holder access to identity data of  ISP subscribers  whose IP addresses were identified as being associated with “illegal” file sharing. The judge said “there is no way to identify whether the computer used to commit a particular offence belonged to the subscriber, or to somebody else using that internet connection”.

In the UK court ruling against ACS Law the judge stated that the use of IP addresses as evidence was “untested”. This is now not the case (although obviously the test case was not in the UK).  Moreover this totally undermines the basic foundation of the Digital Economy Act and the three strikes system being introduced by the government to try and reduce unlawful copyright infringement.

I guess it may yet go to appeal in the USA but you would think that the body of evidence against the Digital Economy Act’s position is surely growing. Unfortunately the DEAct was fueled by emotion and not evidence.


Business ofcom piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Ed Richards confirms #DEAct copyright infringement notices scheme will not be operational for many months #deappg

The Culture Media and Sport Committee held an evidence session on the work of Ofcom today. The Committee briefly touched on the DEA and Louise Bagshawe, the Conservative MP and author, questioned Ofcom’s CEO Ed Richards about the implementation schedule of the Act.

Mr Richards stated that that the Copyright Infringement Notification scheme will not be operational for many months from now and that it may well take another 12 months before the first CIRs are sent out. He further explained that:

  • As members are aware, Ofcom completed its work on the Obligations Code and submitted it to Government months ago.
  • The Code is currently being subjected to a scrutiny process across Government departments and will be submitted to the EU Commission once it has cleared this process.
  • Following the JR, the Government will have to reissue the Sharing of Costs Order to accommodate the High Court’s decision that ISPs cannot be asked to pay set up costs.
  • Ofcom will submit its report on the web blocking powers under the DEA in the course of this month

Ed Richards also briefly touched on Ofcom’s content regulation role. He explained that this power is not yet redundant but potentially on ‘on borrowed time’, given the ease of accessing content on the internet. He stated that this is something that Parliament needs to work out over the next years and that the new Communications Act will be an opportunity to implement changes.

I assume this is Ed Richards side stepping the complicated issue of web filtering.

Readers may be aware that Ms Bagshawe is a former author and in favour of rightsholder’s interest. In her statements on online copyright issues she frequently refers to her conversations with the BPI.

I am indebted to ISPA for the detail of this report. For those interested the Judicial Review judgement can be found here with cost sharing covered in paragraphs 184 – 200.

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Top EU judge says web blocking to prevent copyright infringement infringes fundamental human rights #deappg #deact @edvaizey

The Court of Justice of the European Union yesterday issued a press release stating that “According to Advocate General Cruz Villalón, a measure ordering an internet service provider to install a system for filtering and blocking electronic communications in order to protect intellectual property rights in principle infringes fundamental rights.”

In other words web blocking to try and prevent unlawful P2P downloading is wrong.

“Advocate General Cruz Villalón considers that the installation of that filtering and blocking system is a restriction on the right to respect for the privacy of communications and the right to protection of personal data, both of which are rights protected under the Charter of Fundamental Rights. By the same token, the deployment of such a system would restrict freedom of information, which is also protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

This is an independent legal opinion and not a court judgement but I understand that the court normally adheres to the Advocate General’s line. This particular opinion is issued in relation to the Scarlet Sabam case which involves copyright infringement. In my mind this should also extend to other areas where calls have been made to introduce web blocking such as porn.

It will be interesting to see the reaction to this opinion in the UK. Communications minister Ed Vaizey has been in the press recently with his controversial initiative to see whether ISPs and RightsHolders would be able to find an acceptable way of blocking access to sites promoting P2P file sharing and copyright infringement.

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Don’t block me #DEAct #DEAPPG

It’s a while since I covered the Digital Economy Act, its ramifications and repercussions but last week saw the court hearings take place for the BT/TalkTalk Judicial Review. I was somewhat mistaken in the belief that we might also hear the output of the JR last week but this is not so. The judge needs to go away and deliberate in the way learned people deliberate (this is either hand on chin looking thoughtfully into the distance or chin on chest looking down at interlocked fingers).

The media is already saying that the DEAct implementation is going to be subject to long delays – it already is – we have been waiting for the publication of the Code of Practice for months now. What has been going on in the meantime is further lobbying by Rights Holders to try and get ISPs to block access to websites that promote or support copyright infringement.

Initially this was seen as strange because the DEAct already provides for this to be looked at in the event that the three strikes mechanisms isn’t seen to be working. Cake and eat it springs to mind.

With hindsight it looks as if this was an insurance policy on the part of the RHs in case the DEAct was thrown out in court or subject to delays.

Ed Vaizey has already met with ISPs and RHs in round table meetings to digital content and piracy, the second time being on 23 February 2011. No agreements were made and I believe this is a very long way off. A further meeting is being held next week.

Blocking is likely to be expensive, ineffective, have unintended consequences (eg innocent websites being blocked), seen as censorship, stifle the open growth of the internet ecology and require huge involvement of the judiciary – I certainly would not be happy with ISPs or Rights Holders taking ownership of choosing which sites to block.

Come on guys. Lets try and see a bit of sense here.

Business piracy Regs

#DEAPPG meeting to discuss IP review & what have the Spanish been doing now!

In November the Prime Minister David Cameron announced an independent review of how the Intellectual Property framework supports growth and innovation. Chaired by Professor Ian Hargreaves the review will report in April 2011 with evidence due by March 4th. The Hargreaves review aims to identify barriers to growth within the regulatory framework protecting IP in the UK.

With this review in mind the Digital Economy All Party Political Group (DEAPPG) met at the House of Commons last night for a panel debate chaired by Lord Lucas. The panel was

  • Martin Weatherall MP (background in the Rights Holders industry)
  • Jeff Lynne (Coalition for the Digital Economy)
  • Saskia Walzel (Consumer Focus and the evening’s sponsor)
  • Simon Indelicate (recording artist)

A few points stuck in the mind.

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

@edvaizey answers to @tom_watson questions – take note @Marthalanefox #DEAct #deappg

portcullisYou have to be particularly interested in a topic to read Hansard, the report of parliamentary proceedings. Twitter has made it a lot easier, albeit hit and miss – you typically have to catch the tweet in the stream as it happens.

This week Ed Vaizey gave some answers to questions put by ISPA Internet Hero Tom Watson MP. Specifically Mr Vaizey said that the impact assessment on the DEAct suggested that the additional costs that would have to be applied to consumers broadband lines would have a relatively small but permanent effect of reducing demand for broadband connection by between 10,000-40,000. All assuming that the ISPs would pass on the full costs to their customers.

There are a few observations to make here.

Firstly the obvious one is that this goes against another government policy of trying to promote digital inclusion. Might the government now want to subsidise 10,000 – 40,000 broadband connections to offset the fact that they will not now be able to afford broadband. I wonder whether Martha Lane Fox, the government’s own Digital Inclusion Champion has any comments to make here?

The second point concerns the numbers used in the Impact Assessment itself. There is very little confidence within the ISP industry that the government got this right.

The Impact Assessment assumes that the total annual cost to all ISPs is between £30m and £50m. TalkTalk and BT have been suggesting that the annualized costs to their companies along are considerably higher than the total assumed for the whole industry.

The Impact Assessment clearly needs reviewing. Broadband expansion has been largely down to big cost reductions by ISPs in a very competitive market place. There is a clear relationship between broadband penetration and cost of the service. It has long since got to the point where consumer ISPs especially have had to expand their value proposition away from pure internet access because in itself this service had become unprofitable.

It would not surprise me to see a new Impact Assessment based on real costs showing a massively higher number of people that would be excluded from the broadband market.
I guess we will have to wait until after the Judicial Review to see what happens. In the meantime, c’mon Martha get your boxing gloves on. There is a fight going on here.

Link to Hansard – includes some other DEAct related questions from Tom Watson.

End User net neutrality phones piracy

BBC iPlayer on iPad and Android – high quality – blessing or bandwidthbuster & what about the TV license? :)

iPlayer running on iPad and Adnroid HTC Desire HD

The twitterstream was full of references to the new iPlayer App for iPad and Android this morning so I naturally dived in and downloaded. I have to say the experience is top quality on both. The colours are great and the TV is very watchable on both size screens.

What really came into my mind though was not the fact that I now had a new app on my devices but the fact that this was yet another driver for bandwidth use and also the question of the TV license.

Cisco internet growth forecast

The chart on the right is Cisco’s growth forecast for internet bandwidth use – a 4x growth between 2009 and 2014. Much of this as you can see is driven by video. The Y axis legend is in ExaBytes/Month!

A one of the World’s best content provider the BBC really is one of the drivers of this (Ok YouTube et al are also contributors) and making iPlayer easier to access on more and more devices adds to the proliferation. Of course this also adds to the pressures on ISP networks and fuels the NetNeutrality debate butthat is not for this post. Grown up ISPs will manage their way through.

The debate about the TV License fee is however another issue. The BBC has said that it is not going after non license payers watching using iPlayer online:

“Well, the number of homes that currently have no television licence, but that do have broadband subscription is currently estimated to be infinitesimally small. The chances are if you want to watch BBC TV programmes via catch-up over the web, you are also watching some BBC programmes at other times, live or time-shifted, via a TV set, and will already have a TV licence. ”

This situation will possibly change quite quickly over the next few years.

You only need a license if you are watching live TV which the BBC is now promoting using the iPlayer App. My question is whether the BBC is able to identify online users? The chances are they will only have an IP address to go at which is going to raise the same issues as we currently see with the Digital Economy Act and the RightsHolder industries (of which the BBC is a member). Unless that is the BBC has some spyware embedded in its iPlayer App that somehow records data on who is using it – via  iTunes username perhaps?!

The other notweworthy point is that apps like this are also fuelling the demand for newer faster smart phones. The iPlayer App for Android needs a fast processor to run Flash. It will inevitably evolve towards more and more HD content which will use more and more bandwdth and need faster and faster processors etc etc etc.

We do live in interesting times. BBC statement on iPlayer here.  BBC position on TV License for online streaming here. Header photo (click to see more) is of iPlayer App running on both iPad and HTC Desire HD (Android).

More TV related stuff:

Sony 4K Ultra HD TV

TV detector vans – the truth

Boring TV & better things to do.

Business ofcom piracy surveillance & privacy

#ACSLaw court judgement #MediaCAT #DEAct #DEAPPG


ACS Law hit notoriety for bullying broadband users into paying a fine in lieu of being taken to court for alleged “online copyright infringement”. Victims had no idea what their rights were and apparently frequently paid up rather than going through the expensive courts process.

It was reported yesterday that ACS Law had ceased trading – in order to avoid the potenial fines likely to arise out of the court action. Today they were apparently represented in court by a new barrister.

Reports from the court via twitter stream state:

  • ACS Law has not been allowed to discontinue 27 cases it tried to drop last month.
  • The judge today said letters to alleged filesharers “materially overstates the untested merits” of proving MediaCAT copyright infringement.
  • Also Judge: “Media CAT and #ACSLaw have very real interest in avoiding public scrutiny ” because of revenue from from “wholesale letter writing”
Business online safety piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Swedish ISP Bahnhof provides anonymity to customers by default – #deappg #deact #Wikileaks

Swedish ISP, Banhof, is offering a service that provides its customers with total anonymity on the internet.

We have the privilege to be able to offer a solution for those who want to remain anonymous on the net. When you go online with our partner, all traffic to and from the Internet to go through their servers through an encrypted “tunnel”, which means that nobody can see what you are doing.

Bahnhof, which apparently now hosts the Wikileaks website, does not keep logs of customer activites and would not be able to provide this information to anyone requesting it for the purposes of litigation (*eg Rights Holders in pursuit of copyright infringers – a hot topic at the moment with regard to the Digital Economy Act).

This raises quite an interesting point.

Business piracy Regs

Scarlet, SABAM and the proportionality or otherwise of website blocking #DEAPPG

Some of you will have been following the progress of the Scarlet/Sabam case that is currently being dealt with by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Scarlet, a Belgian ISP (now owned by Belgacom but a small independent at the time the case was started in 2007) was ordered by a national court to implement technical measures to block all P2P traffic that infringes rights held by the Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SABAM).

The court’s decision was subsequently referred to the ECJ who has to clarify whether the requirement to implement traffic-filtering mechanisms is consistent with EU legislation and whether a proportionality test has to be applied if this is the case.

Following upon the submission of written evidence to the court, the ECJ held a hearing on Thursday 13 January that included representations from the European Commission and Member States. The judge will deliver his opinion on 14th April

The outcome of this case will potentially have great bearing on a number of regulatory themes currently trending in the UK – not least being the Digital Economy Act and the recent discussions on porn blocking.

We do need to note that the report was produced by EuroISPA and should therefore be careful in reading into it any assessment as to the likely outcome of the hearing. It looks ok to me 🙂 .

In a nutshell ISPs and a number of EU states considered the technical blocking order to be disproportionate. The report also suggests that in the light of strong arguments to the contrary the judge did not appear to be convinced in respect of filtering measures believed by SABAM to be technically possible.

The report:

Business Cloud internet piracy Regs security

The Futility of Blocking Websites #deappg #wikileaks #censor

Mirrors, and the sheer hopelessness today of blocking websites.

A retweet by Guardian Technology Editor Charles Arthur caught my attention this morning:

RT @AustinHeap “#Wikileaks is averaging 13.9 new mirror sites per hour, or one new mirror every 4′ #censor” So that shutdown went well, eh?

Unless you have no access to media, and in which case you won’t be reading this post, you will have noticed the ongoing wikileaks furore. This is not a post about that subject. Wikileaks’ website is, however, coming under heavy Denial Of Service attack by persons unknown, and the response of its wide community of supporters is to mirror the site to provide alternative access to the content. According to the Wikileaks mirrors website (also blocked but available via IP address) as of 21.55 GMT last night there were 1005 such mirrors.

This does two things. Firstly it shows the futility of trying to block websites (prevention of inadvertent access aka IWF excepted). Secondly it shows the resilience of the internet, a network designed by the US Government to survive nuclear attack. Whilst the source of the DoS attack is probably a matter of conjecture, for those persons who question of the US Government’s approach to law and order it is somewhat ironic that it is this very built resilience is preventing the site from being taken down, or at least keeping the information live.

There are lessons here when we start to consider whether blocking should be applied in other areas such as sites promoting copyright infringement…

Business ofcom piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

#DEAct event at House of Commons #deappg

I attended the DEAct workshop at the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon.  Held in the Jubilee room off the Great  Hall of Westminster, this put together once more rights holders and everyone else in a session that had been organised by Eric Joyce MP in order to be able to put together a summary of the two positions for MPs to take away with them over the holidays.

There is an immediately an observation here in saying “rights holders and everyone else”. It is more than just the ISP community that is objecting to the Digital Economy Act. Consumer and human rights groups are also also in opposition to the Act.

In a sense this meeting was just a rehash of all that has been said before. It was held, however, because with the ongoing Judicial Review and the Parliamentary inquiry (that should have been held before the Act was passed) do present real opportunities to make changes.

The two positions can be summarised quite easily:

  1. Rights Holders are appealing for fairness in that unlawful copyright infringement is taking away revenues and is effectivley stealing – they equate copying a file to taking a CD from a store without paying.  Whilst there are philosophical arguments around this most people agree with them and sympathise.
  2. RHs see the implementation of the (delayed and as yet unpublished) Ofcom  Code of Practice as a means to give the population a wake up call – a jolt to remind them that it is “wrong to steal” and point them in the direction  of legal means of acquiring the copyrighted material.

Those opposed to the Act say:

  1. The process defined in the Act is fundamentally flawed in that it assumes that the broadband account holder is responsible for the copyright infringement – something that would be very difficult to get past a court of law
  2. Those accused of infringing are being asked to prove their innocence which goes against all our democratic principles of fair play – the Code also does not allow for an appeal until too far into the process and then not before a judge

There are many other issues such as who pays and the practicalities of disconnection and website filtering as technical measures but in a sense these are almost side plays to the fairness and human rights aspects.

The reality here is that someone is going to be hurt whatever happens and the judgement that must be made relates to the fairness of who gets hurt.  Is it fair to open up Mrs Abercrombie next door to the possibilites of fundamental injustices versus is it fair to let the rights holders industries suffer and decline.

The fact is that Mrs Abercrombie will get hurt. There is also a very real scenario where the country will go to all the efforts prescribed by the Digital Economy Act and also incur the huge costs with a result that will have zero impact on levels of online copyright infringement. This Act is all about stick and no carrot.

What is certainly clear is that with the evolution of the internet and the world wibe web the world society is going through a huge change. Much of this is for the better but as in all situations of change it is not to everyone’s liking.  When Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny it put many home weavers out of business but did not kill off the weaving industry. It just changed it. Like my analogy or not this is where the creative industries are at now. The biggest problem for them I fear is that it is not obvious how their business model is going to evolve.

In carrying out their inquiry into the DEAct the government should not only recognise this but also that sticks don’t work and they should concentrate more on the carrots.

PS as a postscript I am given to believe that the issue of public intermediaries (ie libraries, universities etc) caught under the act is going to be treated sympathetically. It would be very bad press for this not to be the case at a time of cost cutting. It unfortunately potentially also open up big holes in the effectiveness of the Act. We can only wait and see here.

Apps Business net neutrality piracy Regs

ISPA Conference coming up on Wednesday 1st December

It’s one of the busiest times of year for people in the internet game. Customers you put on now have the greatest effect on next year’s bottom line because they will be with you for the full 12 months.

It has also never been a busier time to be in this industry. What with the world of technology moving into the clouds and blind political wizards waving dangerous wands from ivory towers high above those same clouds.

2011 promises to be a watershed for ISPs. We should find out whether we really will be saddled with the Digital Economy Act and other leaden weights such as the Intercept Modernisation Program (Big Brother is watching you). New business models will have to come to the fore – potentially the only way to get “superfast “ broadband to the “Final Third”. Net neutrality will become a hot topic for discussion as carriers try and find ways of keeping afloat amid the wave of content flooding homes and businesses around the land.

This almost feels like an end of year speech but it isn’t. It is an advert for the Annual ISPA Conference. If you are in a line of business associated with the internet this is one worth taking the time out to attend. It is a meeting point for everyone in the business and very definately worth coming.

Check out the details here.

Business ofcom piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

#DEAct costs will run into £hundreds of millions – is this a good investment?

Last night I participated in a meeting at the British Library chaired by Eric Joyce MP  discussing the effect of the Digital Economy Act on Public Intermediaries, ie libraries, educational establishments, local authorities etc.

The initial rollout of the DEAct is as we know targeted at the 5 ISPs with over 400,000 subscribers. There is however no guarantee that this position will not change once the implementation phase is over especially if it is seen that customers rush to the apparent high ground of smaller ISPs. The concern amongst the above referenced institutions is that it will encumber them with enormous costs.

To bring things into perspective the University of London has 135,000 students. It won’t take a huge lowering of the 400,000 threshold to bring them into scope. Also the definition of who comes into scope is somewhat vague. The University might be described as both ISP (it provides a service and allocates IP addresses), a subscriber (it takes services off another ISP – JANET) and a Communications provider. The latter would leave them out of scope but the first two brings them in.

Ofcom has yet to publish the updated version of the DEAct Code of Practice and we are therefore still in the dark. Ofcom also declined to attend last night’s meeting. The regulator is late delivering the CoP.

The big philosophical problem is that the Act was constructed with the basic assumption of a simple relationship between ISP and consumer. One sells broadband services that the other buys. In the case of the University a notification letter suggesting that their IP address has been identified as “the culprit” in copyright infringement could point to any of their 135,000 students and even then might be wrong.

With the highly mobile nature of a student it would be nigh on impossible for the university to introduce the same tracking systems that serve ISPs and thus be able to maintain records of who might have been the infringer. It has been estimated that the introduction of mitigation measures such as filtering would result in an annual cost of £8m (excl staff) notwithstanding the fact that these measures would probably involve P2P blocking – Universities are big users of P2P for legitimate purposes. My own guesstimate of implementation costs for the University of London alone would be in the region of £500k up front plus a recurring annual maintenance and support charge.

One 94 Group university has estimated that even excluding any IT staffing time, the cost of the appeal process for a single university could be as high as £40,000 pa, at a rate of one notification per 400 students. At a national level that would equate to £32 million per annum.

The same problems apply to other Public Intermediaries. The complexities of narrowing down the location and offending PC to a specific user present a challenge disproportionate to the notional benefit. This is at a time when the Government is cutting down funding available to such institutions. This must surely weigh heavily against the inclusion of Public Intermediaries within the scope of the Act. It is at the very least a political contradiction.

Note the estimated Government figures for costs to industry of implementing the DEAct are as follows:

  • Cost (upfront) to ISPs (annualised): £8m per year
  • Costs (ongoing) to ISPs: £8-25m per year
  • Annual average costs to mobile operators: £19m per year
  • Annual costs of sending CIRs: £3m per year

The BT/TalkTalk submission as part of the request for Judicial Review suggested that the real costs were more in the region of £100m pa excluding the potential costs of implementing website blocking and other technical measures.

Assuming that the threshold will be lowered the total cost of implementing the Act could run into hundreds of millions of pounds a year, 75% of which, as it stands, would have to be paid for by the Rights Holders.


Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Government response to TalkTalk petition says infringers won’t be disconnected #DEAct

Just for reference the Andrew Heaney of TalkTalk petition against the Digital Economy Act has had a response from the government.

It is clear that online copyright infringement inflicts considerable damage on the UK’s creative economy including music, TV and film, games, sports and software. Industry estimates place this harm at £400m pa.

The Digital Economy Act includes a number of measures to tackle the problem and we expect these to be successful in significantly reducing online copyright infringement. However this is an area of rapid technological change and developing consumer behaviour. The Act therefore includes a reserve power to introduce further “technical” measures if the initial measures do not succeed. These technical measures would limit or restrict an infringers’ access to the internet. They do not include disconnection.”

I’m not sure the technical measures were ever specified but at least this, together with the inquiry discussed in the previous post, is evidence that he huge furore following the passing of the act is starting to show some effect. Long way to go though.

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

BT and TalkTalk granted Judicial Review on Digital Economy Act & DCMS launch inquiry #DEAct

BT and TalkTalk were today granted a Judicial Review of the Digital Economy Act at the High Court. A judge will now scrutinise whether the act is legal and justifiable on privacy and mere conduit grounds.

Also announced today by the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee is an inquiry into protecting copyright online and the effectiveness of the DEAct. The call for evidence has asked for comments on a number of questions including:

• Whether the new framework has captured the right balance between supporting creative work online and the rights of subscribers and ISPs.
• Whether the notification process is fair and proportionate.
• The extent to which the associated costs might hinder the operation of the Act.
• At what point, if at all, consideration should be given to introducing the additional technical measures allowed for under the Act.
• Intellectual Property and barriers to new internet-based business models, including information access, the costs of obtaining permissions from existing rights-holders, and “fair use.”

This is good news. I am afraid we have to ask ourselves why this was not gone into during the initial parliamentary process running up to the passing of the Act.

The deadline for response is Wednesday, January 5.