International Group Pressures ISPs on Piracy Issues

LOS ANGELES — European lawmakers and Internet service providers are under pressure from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) over piracy issues associated with illegal P2P downloads.

In a letter entitled "Technical options for addressing online copyright infringement," the IFPI outlined three means by which ISPs could control infringing traffic, including the employment of content filters; the blocking of specific protocols, such as those employed by P2P networks; and the blocking of access to infringing websites in "rogue jurisdictions," such as Sweden's infamous Pirate Bay.

While the group's concerns center on the illegal trade in copyrighted music, other groups interested in content piracy — or even the legal distribution of "objectionable" material such as adult entertainment — might advocate similar measures to limit users' access to digital downloads.

The group claims that none of these options "is overly burdensome or expensive or causes problems for regular services to the ISP's customers," and also alleges that solutions could range from network-wide to those targeting individual users.

The IFPI pointed to the current use of these practices, as well as other measures such as throttling bandwidth usage by individual users and the blocking of spam emails, as evidence of the ease and feasibility of taking these actions when it served the ISP's own interests.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) opposes the IFPI's ISP filtering proposal, claiming that "EFF's experience has been that filtering is an overbroad, ineffective measure that will do little to practically address the concerns of major rights-holders while imposing serious costs on the individual rights of European citizens in their roles as consumers, artists and educators."

The EFF cites reasons for its opposition to ISP filtering as: the potential curtailing of existing consumer and artistic rights, the burdens on education and research, the lack of prevention of copyright infringement, limitations on European innovation, the weakening of European privacy norms and the high cost to consumers.

"All use not explicitly permitted by rights-holders would be banned from the net, severely restricting the exercise of these rights by Europeans acting as artists, consumers and citizens," said Erik Josefsson, EFF's European Affairs Coordinator. "This will have particularly strong ramifications in the growing online field of user-generated content, which frequently relies on balanced and flexible copyright enforcement to create legitimate new cultural works."