July 11, 2007 9:34 AM PDT

British ISPs stand firm after file-sharing ruling

A group representing Internet service providers in the U.K. has reasserted that ISPs should not be responsible for illegal file-sharing that takes place over their networks.

Speaking Wednesday in the wake of a recent ruling in a Belgian court, a representative of the Internet Service Providers' Association maintained that ISPs should not be "set up to play judge and jury" over alleged copyright infringement.

Last week, a Belgian court ruled that the ISP Scarlet--formerly Tiscali--had the technology available to it to block or filter copyright-infringing material being sent over its network via peer-to-peer traffic, and had six months to start doing so.

The judgment drew praise from John Kennedy, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, who said it proved that "the Internet's gatekeepers, the ISPs, have a responsibility to help control copyright-infringing traffic on their networks."

The case sets a precedent in European law but seems likely to be challenged. However, a similar decision won't surface in the U.K. anytime soon, according to telecommunications lawyer Danny Preiskel of Preiskel & Co.

"I think we are a way away from reaching a similar decision in the U.K. in imposing such liability," he told ZDNet UK, adding that such a case in the U.K. would be "fiercely resisted" by ISPs.

But ISPs in the U.K. are opening themselves up to some degree of liability by moving away from being providers of "pure conduits." They may be responsible for anything defamatory contained within the value-added content that many ISPs are now trying to sell to their customers, added Preiskel.

An ISPA representative noted that "ISPs are recognized in the eCommerce Directive (of 2002) as mere conduits of information."

The representative also responded to U.K. Conservative Party leader David Cameron's recent claims that, if ISPs could remove child pornography from their servers, they should also be willing to shut down the transmission of copyright-infringing material.

"We are talking about different things here--child pornography is criminal and copyright infringement can be a civil case," the ISPA representative said.

"ISPs shouldn't be set up to play judge and jury," the representative continued. "What we wouldn't want is corporate censorship. Any kind of censorship of the Internet has to be at the government level. ISPs are not law enforcement. We understand that ISPs play a part in combating instances of illegal activity on the Internet, which is why we engage with rights holders and work with government authorities on that basis, but we wouldn't say we're the gatekeepers of the Internet. The people responsible for unlawful content going up on the Internet are the people who put it there."

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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8 comments

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Baby Rapers
That argument is like saying you know children are being raped in your house but you shouldn't be held accountable to try to stop it.

ISP'S will lose in court over this.
Posted by GrandpaN1947 (187 comments )
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Incorrect...
The argument is nothing like that. It is more like someone ordering Child Pornography to your address and picking it up from your mailbox. Most likely you would never see this person, the Child Porn, or even know this was happening.

Do you deserve to go to jail for this?

ISPs are in a similar situation. They only allow people to use their networks. Without a person spying on all your activity, there is no way to know what you are doing.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
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Re: Baby Rapers
You're equating sharing a Britney Spears song to raping babies? You've lost it, Grandpa.
Posted by alflanagan (115 comments )
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ISPs in court
I believe they'll loose in court also. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of the RIAA or their European counterpart, but if reasonably priced technology exists to prevent it and they don't use it, then how should the court respond?

Older rulings letting ISPs off the hook for everything under the sun are outdated with today's technology.

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
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Baby~~~
Can a landlord be held responsible & be required to police his tenants to insure that they do not, or can not copy anything that may be available via an internet,cable or satellite service?

Now it is my opinion that most cable, satellite and Internet service providers would wither and fall dead like leaves in autumn if access to content and/or functionality was restricted.
Who would subscribe to a service that can't deliver the goods?

Here in enlightened Colonial Canada we have eliminated music piracy by placing a tax on the tools used by copiers. Blank CDs, recording tape, Ipods, memory, harddrives etc. all have a special tax that is collected at point of sale and is distributed to the artists.
In essence, here in the Great White North anyone can make a copy of any recorded music for their personal use. You are not allowed to sell, trade, copy on behalf of, or give away anything you copy. However, you can borrow an original CD from a friend and copy it for yourself legally.

Only in Canada, you say? What a pity!!
Posted by paidfare (2 comments )
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The Ruling Lacks Wisdom
This ruling lacks wisdom.

Newspaper stands are not responsible for the errors contained in the newspapers they sell.
Libraries are not responsible for plagerism, errors, source citing issues for their content.
ISP's carry traffic. Nothing more. They do not enable piracy any more than Roads enable bank robbery. People will use whatever tool is handy. The tool is not at fault.

The EU better fix this ruling or they can kiss their internet advantage goodbye.
Posted by Renegade Knight (13748 comments )
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Ultimately Won't Matter
The fact the whole argument is avoiding is that the ISPs will ultimately be unable to stop file sharing. You can talk about filters and policing servers, etc., all you want, but every one of these can be gotten around. You'd have to shut the Internet down, or rebuild it from the ground up -- and make no mistake, that's some people's agenda here. Many people even in "free" countries find the implications of true free speech disturbing, and will fight it with any tool they can find.
Posted by alflanagan (115 comments )
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