back to article 'No cutting off people's internet based on secret evidence'

Ofcom should force rights-holders into publishing most of the details about how their systems for identifying cases of online copyright infringement work, a consumer watchdog has said. In a letter (6-page/1.71MB PDF) to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Consumer Focus said that it would seek "full transparency …


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  1. ACx

    Given that government wants as many services as possible exclusively on the internet, isn't cutting people off effectively cutting them out of society, and there for a violation of human rights?

    Say you have a large family, and one of the kids illegally shares. Do his or her brothers and sister have to suffer too? The parents? Like government, schools are more an more pointing kids to the web for home work and tests. Are we cutting off education too?

    What is needed here is for ISP's to have something a little more intelligent than a draconian cut off all policy. Trust me, when people start getting cut off there will be hell to pay, since there will be so many unindented consequences.

    1. Pat 11

      tru dat

      I was just thinking the same thing. I doubt we'll see any disconnections in shared households.

      1. Arrrggghh-otron

        Re: tru dat

        If there were disconnections what is to stop you signing up with another ISP or buying a prepay mobile dongle/router?

        1. Ole Juul

          Re: tru dat

          what is to stop you signing up with another ISP or buying a prepay mobile dongle/router?

          Or using dialup from an ISP in another country. OK, not so good for file-sharing, but an under-the-radar internet connection nevertheless.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: tru dat

            Most people use a VPN nowadays darling.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: tru dat

              So no need for ofcom or your ISP to be involved

              The MPAA can simply tell the US govt to tell your VPN's parent company/bank/credit card company to force them to hand over all the details under the "it's an election year and we fund the campaign" rule

          2. Graham Wilson
            Thumb Up

            @Ole Juul -- Re: tru dat

            True, but what these buggers do not realise is that it won't be long before another file-sharing scheme comes along and properly 'anonymizes' the source and destination, IP addresses not withstanding. If this anonymity doesn't happen within the current IP/Internet framework, then widespread contempt for Copyright Law being what it is--and with technology continually evolving--it won't be long before another system of file-sharing takes over--this time with anonymity features built-in and intrinsic to the process.

            What will the MPAA et al do then? Have authorities do randomised house/computer searches perhaps?

            At present, essentially the same-rule-for-everything Copyright Law is fast becoming unworkable and trying to strengthen it in its present form clearly will not work. Irrespective of reason, any law that in the eyes of the bulk of the population is seen as a joke or not legitimate, is essentially unworkable--as is now much of copyright law--and thus should not exist as such.

            The real answer lies in what should actually be copyrighted and to the extent of copyright, thus the need for proper copyright reform. It's not the first time such drastic law change has occurred. US Prohibition was not only a law but also an amendment to the Constitution and even it was eventually repealed because the percentage of the population that ignored the Law was just too large for government to deal with. So too will Copyright Law eventually be amended to properly reflect the Digital Age.

            BTW, you'll note in the downloadable PDFs the ready lobbying access that MPAA and ilk have to the powers that be, governments etc. Fundamentally, the imbalance between the rich and powerful and the hoi polloi in their respective abilities to be able to lobby politicians, is, in my opinion, one of the most significant problems with modern-day democracy.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. A. Nervosa


      Arguably cutting off someone's Internet is no more of a violation of human rights than sending them to prison, cutting them out of society and removing their right to vote.

      In the case of Untended consequences to the family, sending the father to prison for his crime and denying his children access to their own father is exactly the kind of thing criminals should be contemplating BEFORE they do the crime. Providing the consequences of crimes are clearly understood by all, those willing to commit the crimes should and do take full responsibility for their actions and the effects it has on those around them, including their own family.

      1. N000dles

        Re: Punishment

        I suppose you are the same person that agrees everyone should submit their DNA to a database so the good lemmings who let our capitalist society leach off them can be protected from the bad ones who don't agree with the system. I really thought that prisons were for people who need to be locked up to protect society from them. I suppose those who download next weeks episodes early are just the sort of people we need locked up to keep society safe for the consumers.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One solution to the problem you mention would be to severely limit the connection speeds to a point where normal web browsing is unaffected but it makes file sharing impractical. If they are feeling generous they could even throw in some exceptions for sites that would require a bit of extra bandwidth such as iPlayer or YouTube.

    5. Thorne

      Actually you can take it a step further. Cutting the internet will cut VOIP and for some households, that leaves them with no phone

  2. WonkoTheSane

    Dear MAFIAA,

    "Because we say so" isn't good enough.

  3. DJO Silver badge

    Re ACx

    "Say you have a large family, and one of the kids illegally shares. Do his or her brothers and sister have to suffer too? "

    Good point. If collective punishment during war is a war-crime I fail to see how it can be allowed in peace-time.

    (I'd love to have tried that one out when I was at school as a response to "if the boy who <whatever heinous act> does not own up the whole class will get detention")

    1. Chris Miller

      Not a good point

      Neither I nor A. Nervosa above are arguing that the suggested punishment is sensible or appropriate. But, if you believe the 'collective punishment' argument, than it becomes impossible to punish anyone with dependants, because to do so would also affect them. For this reason, no legal system accepts this argument, instead asserting that the convicted person should have considered the consequences before carrying out their illegal action.

      There are many good arguments that have been advanced against this proposal, but collective punishment isn't one of them.

  4. Refugee from Windows

    Just 'cos we say so

    I see this more a question of denying a service to someone without there being a recourse to law. If they do have evidence of illegal activity then it would be correct for to present this to a court of law, not to just accuse and then force ISPs to remove their service. I would hope that this idea gets binned by the ISP's, and the MAFIAA get a suitable reply from their own legal eagles.

  5. Crisp
    Big Brother

    "16% of the reports ISPs received were not based on "valid" IP addresses"

    It's almost as if they are making the evidence up.

    No wonder they don't want people seeing their secret evidence.

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Re: "16% of the reports ISPs received were not based on "valid" IP addresses"

      Nothing to do with the fact that a lot of the "dodgy" torrent trackers deliberately insert fabricated IP's into their torrent swarm lists?

      If your primary evidence has come from the people who provide the alleged illegal facilities to those who you are trying to sue, you are doomed to fail.

      And that's not even touching on the fact that it's NOT accepted in a court of law that an IP alone is good enough to correlate to a particular person.

      Although all the fancy laws they make up seem to say you're doomed the second you appear on their lists, in actual fact higher laws with greater precedent and greater preponderance of evidence required mean that they all get thrown out (e.g. ACS:Law, etc.) unless you were guilty and admit it. That's not to say you should not admit it if you are, but that 16% of those reports were entirely 100% fake. So do you shout at your kids because they *might* have done it, or do you fight the case because their evidence *might* be wrong?

  6. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The MPAA always remind me of the customs office in Milligans 'Goodbye Soldier'

    you know the one where the Scotsman who doesnt want to pay duty to bring his whisky into the country shares is out and downs the rest. He screams to the MP's to arrest him. 'What for?' they ask. 'He's drunk!' screams the little tyrant. 'No he's not' say the MP's . 'He will be' yells the customs officer.

    If its secret evidence its not evidence so just fuck off and die will you.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One to many

    "16% of the reports ISPs received were not based on "valid" IP addresses"

    When you are talking about accusing somebody of a criminal act, even having a single unexplained incorrect IP address should invalidate the entire list.

  8. Grikath

    Even worse...

    One can reasonably expect the average commentard here to have a working knowledge of the concept of an "IP address". The average public? Not so much.

    And let's see... lists are made available once a month, three strikes.... How long would you need to keep *exact* log files on your modems' IP adress to even stand a chance of proving your innocence again?


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How long?

    Until torrents can operate over http using chunking?

    No Sir, no torrents here! I merely operate a password-protected web server to stream my content to my phone. Yes, the password is 12345, how did you guess? Have I been hacked?

  10. wowfood


    It's better than the current idea of cutting off out of nowhere I'll say that much.

    I still say that there'd be a large drop in piracy if more of this stuff were avaliable with on demand services like netflix.

  11. LJRich


    Surely the fact that so many people pay for Sky is sign that we are willing to pay for our entertainment. We just don't want to be ripped off for our entertainment.

    OK, maybe Sky was a bad example...

  12. Keep Refrigerated

    Probably not enforceable

    I suspect that the £20 fee is there to discourage DOSing the court system because they know ultimately, winning a lawsuit based on shakey evidence and accusations alone is going to be near impossible. Similarly - the setting up of a tribunal (as in most civil offenses in the UK) is an attempt to inject a middle man between the accused and the court - between the accused and justice.

    As with any defense, the key is building up a solid paper trail of plausible deniability coupled with attempts to reasonably assist with law enforcement... ergo an immediate response following each accusation - e.g.*:

    Dear ISP/MAFIAA boss,

    I (run an open wifi network|share my password with all my friends and relatives) and at the time I am accused of downloading "Justin.Bieber.2012.Believe.Tour.XXX.Wicked_Yeah", approximately 12 computers/laptops/devices were attached to my router. Also I should mention that 4 of these IP addresses belong to shared computers that (couple|group|kids) share between them.

    I have asked around all my (friends|family|relatives) to tell me what they were doing online at the time of the alleged infringement, but none recall. I have tried to check the router logs, alas they were not switched on at the time.

    Is it possible you could assist me in identifying the computer that did the alleged infringing. Here is a list of the 12 IP/MAC Addresses connected to my router at the time. If you could identify which one, I will gladly hand over their details.

    Please find enclosed a cheque for £20, I expect that if I receive no response by X deadline, that no action has been taken and it will be refunded to my account.

    Yours faithfully

    F U Cox

    *IANAL and this is not a real template.

    The trick is not to stop you getting disconnected, it's to prove the disconnection was unfounded and allow you to seek compensation - as well as showing up the whole process.

    1. NukEvil

      Re: Probably not enforceable

      Sounds great, until they start treating internet gateways like they do vehicles. In most states in the U.S., if a driver commits an infraction in front of a traffic camera, the notice of infraction and fine won't go to the driver's address--it will go to the address of the registered owner (which may or may not be the same as the address of the driver). Therefore, the responsibility of the actions of the vehicle is on the owner of the vehicle, not the driver.

      If they start treating internet gateways like they do vehicles in the U.S. (assuming they aren't already), it will be the owner of the gateway that gets the disconnection warnings--not the person driving the computer that allegedly infringed on someone else's copyright. It's the responsibility of the owner to ensure that any machines on his/her network don't do something that brings attention to the owner.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Probably not enforceable

        And then no hotel, coffee shop, place of work or public area will be able to offer Internet access at all, as the risk would be too great.

        This would last until the Palace at Westminster got accused of infringement - which it would.

  13. Nigel 11

    Data Protection Act!

    The moment they accuse you of something, all data relating to what they accuse you of becomes personal data and they have to supply you with a copy of all the personal data they hold if you make a data-protection act request. It'll cost you a tenner, but it'll probably cost them a lot more.

    If they refuse and say it's not personal data, they have either committed a criminal offense or they've irrevocably lost the right to use that data against you. Ditto if they miss out anything that they later try to use.

    If they disclose anyone else's personal data then you report them for that to the data Protection Registrar (and the third party if you can identify him).

    If they accuse you of something that's not true and cause any damaging action to be taken against you, such as disconnection, then demand damages. They have libelled you. Even if you just feel the need to write a letter to put the record straight, try invoicing them for the cost of writing it (at £250/hour as your own legal adviser) and small-claims summons them for non-payment of your invoice.

    What have you got to lose? This isn't even civil disobedience. It's just requiring them to be civilly obedient!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Data Protection Act!

      Unfortunately, relying on the Data Protection Registrar in your defence is like entering a swordfight armed only with a peeled banana.

    2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: Data Protection Act!

      That's all fine and dandy _if_ you know who is accusing you. Of what.

      I don't know how it works in the UK but I received a nastygram from my ISP earlier this year saying that I had been reported to them as having shared some sort a file illegally; they did not identify who was the reporting party, saying that they did not disclose my name to them so they would not disclose theirs to me either, but I should know who was the right holder for the file. The file in question was some episode of an anime serie called airbender or something. In mandarin. All the evidence there was was an IP and the name of the file. Which, needless to say, I had never heard of.

      Looking up the file on the web I found that it had been produced by a small company owned by a medium company partially owned by another medium company, more or less attached to a big group. Now who sent the report? Probably none of the companies I found, but a legal cabinet hired by one of them or by an association à la MPAA. Or possibly an independant dodgy cabinet (similar to ACS:Law). No way to know. Most probably the "research" was done by an israelian outfit hired by a USA-based legal cabinet acting on behalf of dog knows who. Who do send your request to? The MAFIAA and co. are prety well shielded from legal action.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, right

    Like any authority has an obligation to explain to criminals how they were caught committing a crime. Time to get real and do the time for your crime.

    If you're dumb enough to pirate, you're dumb enouth to pay hundreds of thousands of Euros and go to prison. Japan has the right system with mandatory two year prison term for pirates.

    1. The Aussie Paradox

      Re: Yeah, right

      Not sure if trolling or just stupid?

      I am guessing the tune will be different once your dynamically assigned IP was used by someone who downloaded something and you have no idea why they are accusing you of a crime you did NOT do.

      Anyway, the story is not about whether pirating is right or wrong, it's about them PROVING you did it and allowing YOU the opportunity to prove you are innocent.

      Remember the good old days of "Innocence until proven guilty"?

      Yea, me neither.

      1. Oldfogey

        Re: Yeah, right

        Innocent UNLESS proven guilty please.

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

          Re: Yeah, right

          Could be worse, it could say "presumed guilty until found dead"

          Sorry , but I always thought in a court of law, the contesting parties had to show evidence to the other side and refute evidence given by the other side

          But if this goes through, heres the evidence showing you are guilty and no you cant see it.

          Ok he's guilty .. pass me the black cap please clerk of the court

          1. Grikath

            "presumed guilty until found dead"

            Sgt. Detritus would class that as "malignant lingering".....

    2. kain preacher

      Re: Yeah, right

      In the US they have to tell you how they caught you. Here is an example. You get pulled over for a traffic violation and then they found drugs on you. You caught him during a traffic stop. The cop can not just say the drugs are the supects. He has to explain how he caught the person.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The stupidity that is pirates

    It would not bother me one bit if they took pirates and hackers out to the woodshed and shot them dead - after they made them dig their own grave.

    Do the time for your crime.

  16. mfritz0

    The ISP should not have to have the responsibility to enforce these accusations. There should be a warrant filed for each offence and a court of law should judge each offense. Any other action should be considered "NULL and VOID". This is barratry, plain and simple, it's just a bunch of lawyers working for the entertainment trying to drum up business like a bunch of "Ambulance Chasers".

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