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FAST urges ISPs to do more to prevent illegal file sharing

The Federation Against Software Theft : 31 July, 2008  (Technical Article)
Letters from ISPs to users warning them of illegal file sharing activities is only the first step in preventing copyright infringements explains the Federation Against Software Theft
'Warning' letters are a good first step, but more should be done to bring infringers to account, said John Lovelock, Chief Executive of the Federation Against Software Theft, in response to news that internet service providers (ISPs) are finally approaching users over illegal file-sharing.

Lovelock said, "Intellectual property representative groups, such as The Federation and the BPI amongst countless others have been campaigning for years to get the ISPs to stop illegal file-sharing. However, I believe the ISPs are still not committed enough. Effectively, anyone who illegally file-shares is committing a criminal act, and we want an agreement that has a measure of accountability against such people.

"The current agreement is designed to warn people that their file-sharing is illegal, so the next step is to follow up with sanctions to show that IP owners mean business."

Research suggests that warning letters will deter 70% of casual illegal fire-sharers. Unfortunately warning letters do not deter the 30% of hard-core pirates out there who make their living out of stealing other people's digital content, be it music, games, video software or other IP.

Since the implementation of section 97A Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 in 2003, rights holders, such as software developers, music studios, film distributors and other digital content sectors have had the right in law to seek an injunction to force ISPs to take action against internet users who use their connection illegally. When presented with evidence of illegal activity, the court may grant an injunction against the ISPs to act against these users and stop their activity, according to section 97A of the CDPA. Most ISP user contracts state that internet connections are not to be used for illegal activity.

Lovelock continued, "The best route forward is the one demonstrated by The Federation in Operation Tracker 2006 when we detected illegal file-sharers online and moved to protect the software vendors being ripped-off. The Federation obtained written undertakings from many infringers to desist from this behaviour; we achieved settlement payments, and in some cases took perpetrators to court.

"Operation Tracker was a groundbreaking experiment and could have been expanded to even greater effect had other IP bodies decided to look at the bigger picture and join forces to manage a problem that affects us all.

"If the UK wants to live up to its reputation as a creative powerhouse then we need to be strong in protecting our IP as the only effective way forward. It is time to get serious and show crooks the majority of people want them to stop this activity to protect our livelihoods and that theft is theft, full stop."
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