Sunday, 30 May 2010

Eircom users to face Dtecnet scrutiny

The Irish Times has reported ("Eircom to cut broadband over illegal downloads") that
"EIRCOM WILL from today [24 May 2010] begin a process that will lead to cutting off the broadband service of customers found to be repeatedly sharing music online illegally.

Ireland is the first country in the world where a system of “graduated response” is being put in place. Under the pilot scheme, Eircom customers who illegally share copyrighted music will get three warnings before having their broadband service cut off for a year.

The Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma), whose members include EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner, reached an out-of-court settlement with Eircom in February 2009 under which the telecoms company agreed to introduce such a system for its 750,000 broadband users.

The mechanism by which it operates was challenged in the courts by the Data Protection Commissioner. Mr Justice Peter Charleton ruled in the High Court [see IPKat note here] that a broadband subscribers internet protocol (IP) address, which Eircom will use to identify infringing customers, did not constitute personal information.

It is understood that, during the pilot phase, Eircom has agreed to process about 50 IP addresses a week. Irma is using a third-party firm, Dtecnet, to identify Eircom customers who are sharing, and not simply downloading, a specific list of its members’ copyrighted works on peer-to-peer networks. The operation of the scheme will be reviewed after three months.

Dick Doyle, director general of Irma, said his organisation could potentially supply Eircom with thousands of IP addresses a week but it was a matter of seeing what the internet service provider (ISP) was able to process.

Infringing customers will be initially telephoned by Eircom to see if they are aware of the activity on their broadband network. If the customer is identified a third time, they will have their service withdrawn for seven days. If they are caught a fourth time their broadband connection will be cut off for a year. Mr Doyle said international research suggested 80 per cent of people will stop illegal file-sharing if they get a letter from their ISP warning them of the consequences [Is this research published? What's its methodology? Is it reliable?]. ...

... Cable operator UPC has resisted requests from Irma to implement a “three strikes” system and the case is in the courts next month. Last night, a spokeswoman for UPC said it does not see any legal basis for monitoring or blocking its subscribers’ activities".
The 1709 Blog, which hasn't yet heard reports of anyone receiving a call from Eircom, is fascinated to see how effective this procedure will be and hopes its readers will keep it informed of developments as they unfold. Other than a migration of illegal file-sharers to other ISPs and/or fresh identities online, this blogger suspects that the net result of this exercise will be reflected in the increased cost of monitoring and enforcing copyright but without a corresponding increase in sales of legitimate product.


Thomas Dillon said...

Jeremy, one of the research exercises that your interpolated questions question is the 2008 Entertainment Media Research report, carried out for and available on the web site of Wiggin. I believe there are other similar surveys and the UK Government has accepted this proposition. Your comment surprised me.

Unknown said...

The 2008 Entertainment Media Survey reports that 72% of the interviewees indicate that they would stop file sharing if they receive warnings. However, in the 2009 survey this figure dropped to 30%. The latest edition of the survey shows that 34% of those engaged in illicit file sharing will not change their behaviour even if the sanction of account suspension is implemented in the UK. However, an important distinction between the UK, where the surveys were conducted, and Ireland, is of course that subscribers of Eircom are certain of the possibility of sanctions, and this may impinge on their actual behaviour.

One should also doubt whether simply asking people how they would respond to warnings, as the surveys do, is a reliable method of testing the effectiveness of a three strikes policy. I'm not aware of any criminological research that uses such a method to measure the effectiveness of sanctions, and I should think that other, more direct methods are required.

I think that it is fair to say that the empirical evidence is confusing at least, and does not provide a very solid basis for policy. I would therefore agree with Jeremy's critical remark. As a general point, I think it is rather unfortunate that neither the French nor the English legislatures have given much attention to empirical research on the effectiveness of three strikes systems (or want thereof), especially since they entail significant limitations on privacy and access to information.