Will South African ADSL ISPs block torrents and piracy websites?

A number of overseas regulators have forced Internet service providers to block their clients from accessing certain “pirate” sites.

Most recently, Portugal added 39 URLs to its list of around 50 blocked sites – which include The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents.

In South Africa, it recently emerged that MultiChoice wants to hire a Cyber Piracy Investigator.

Among the tasks this piracy investigator will undertake is identifying server locations and content, as well as ISPs and hosts.

MultiChoice said it “supports the protection of copyright” and was “committed to upholding the laws and regulations of the Copyright Act”, following the posting of the job advert.

We asked South Africa’s top ISPs what they think about blocking access to known piracy websites and BitTorrents – this was their response.

Greg Wright, Webafrica

Responsibility for sensible use is in the consumer’s hands – Webafrica

“We firmly believe that ISPs should not be required to police the Internet,” said Webafrica.

“Our core function is provide Internet access, therefore the responsibility for sensible use is in the consumer’s hands.”

Derek Hershaw Mweb

The onus should not lie with ISPs to police the Internet – MWEB

MWEB said the onus should not lie with ISPs to police the Internet, but it added that it will operate within the confines of the law in South Africa.

“There is no legal obligation for us to [block torrents on our network] currently,” said MWEB.

Laurie Fialkov

ISPs can’t be net neutral and also be Internet police – CyberSmart

CyberSmart said RICA prevents it from blocking torrents without written consent from the user, or without a change to its terms and conditions.

This also spits in the face of net neutrality that is such a hot topic in industry, it said, adding that an ISP can’t be net neutral and be required to be the Internet police.

“They can be one, or the other,” it said.

It is also tricky to put the burden of responsibility on the ISP, because it implies if they don’t block they can potentially be held liable for the copyright infringement, said CyberSmart.

“Sometimes we cant block because it is encrypted.”

Crystalweb logo dark

We will fight any intention by authorities to make us block torrent traffic – Crystal Web

Crystal Web said it has no intention of blocking torrents and will fight any intention by legal authorities to force them to do so.

“Anyone who believes that blocking a protocol is a sensible approach to curbing copyright infringement simply underestimates the creativity of human beings, and is so out of touch with reality that they should not be in a position to make such decisions,” said the ISP.

The ISP said individuals need to take responsibility for their actions, and the law needs to be enforced accordingly – but only if applicable.

Afrihost's Gian Visser

There is a lot of legitimate P2P traffic – Afrihost

Afrihost said it doesn’t believe it would block torrents, as there is a lot of legitimate P2P traffic.

“More services are looking at P2P as a way to spread content quickly and minimise data costs,” the ISP said.

“P2P will continue to play an important role in general Internet behaviour.”

It went on to agree with the sentiment of the other ISPs, saying it is not an ISP’s mandate to control and police what their clients choose to do online.

Cell C logo on blueWe will abide by the law – Cell C

Cell C said it would block BitTorrent traffic if required to do so by law.

“Cell C always supports actions that comply with legislation and will always adhere to any requirements placed on the company by law,” it said.

Vodacom logo

Only if the subscriber asks, or authorities demand, will we block content – Vodacom

Vodacom said its business practice is to not block any type of traffic – unless requested by the subscriber, like with its opt-in Adult Content Management Service, or when instructed via relevant legal processes.

Like Cell C, Vodacom said it will abide by the law.

“Vodacom will take its guidance from the relevant legal and regulatory bodies as and when they publish regulation on the matter,” it said.

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Will South African ADSL ISPs block torrents and piracy websites?