SA ADSL piracy blacklisting warnings: Bullying tactics?

Over the last few years it has become commonplace for local ADSL users to receive ‘network abuse’ and piracy notifications from their Internet Service Provider (ISP), warning them that their accounts will be suspended unless they resolve the problems related to ‘copyright violation.’

These copyright warnings typically list an IP address from which copyright material was allegedly illegally distributed or downloaded. The local ISP then resolved this IP address to a phone line and subscriber to whom a warning is sent.

The subscriber is typically threatened with having their ADSL account suspended, and even having their ADSL line blacklisted on the whole Internet Solutions ADSL network.

SA ISPs merely serving US copyright companies?

It is well known that copyright infringement notifications are mostly generated internationally, and are then forwarded to the first tier ISP to which the IP address belongs.

The first tier ISP, such as Internet Solutions (IS), forwards these notifications to either a reseller ISP or a direct client. In the case of a reseller ISP, such as Afrihost, they in turn forward it to the end user.

The fact that these warnings are forwarded without any verification of facts or checking on the legality of the traffic monitoring is of concern to many consumers.

MyBroadband has previously reported that the monitoring of Internet traffic in South Africa is illegal without the users’ consent, and even if this takes place outside of the country it is still a legal minefield.

Despite the legal grey area, local ISPs continue to serve their subscribers with the copyright infringement warnings.

What is of even more concern is that the service providers admit that they have no insight into how the information is collected, cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information or even declare that the information was obtained legally.

Service providers respond

Afrihost, which continues to send warnings to their subscribers, confirmed that they are not privy to the process their upstream provider uses to generate the complaints and merely forward these complaints to subscribers.

Afrihost further said that they do not verify that the subscriber who is threatened with account suspension and ADSL line blacklisting is actually guilty of the offence. They could also not confirm that the information which they forwarded was obtained legally.

Afrihost added that they merely serve notices from their upstream provider Internet Solutions, and due to pressure from IS, they have no choice other than to warntheir subscribers.

So what does Internet Solutions have to say?

IS could also not guarantee that the monitoring process used for gathering information about South African ADSL subscribers is legal, adding that they do not monitor the content of traffic in any way.

“Complaints and notifications are merely forwarded in its entirety with the original wording intact,” said Prenesh Padayachee, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Internet Solutions.

IS seems to trust entirely on anti-piracy organizations to act legally and to ensure that all information is accurate.

“IS receives copyright infringements notifications from organisations such as Entertainment Software Association, BSA and BayTSP. These content protection companies are hired by copyright holders to monitor if their works are being pirated through a variety of means. They have systems in place to ensure the integrity of the data,” said Padayachee.

Padayachee further confirmed that they do not verify that the subscriber is actually guilty of copyright infringement before sending out warnings to their subscribers or reseller ISPs. “IS relies on the information from a trusted source as we do not monitor the content of traffic,” the company said.

We don’t threaten blacklisting: IS

Padayachee added that IS merely notifies clients of these complaints and does not threaten to blacklist clients in light of these notifications.

“Should the client be a reseller, the reseller investigates the infringement or copyright notification further (pin-pointing the end user that may be involved) and exercises their AUP accordingly. IS merely requires an update as to the outcome of their (the client’s) investigations and any steps that may have been taken by the client to update and close the complaint in our abuse system,” said Padayachee.

Padayachee said that he is not certain if a copyright infringement case will hold up in court, but explained that as a responsible ISP and ISPA member, IS notifies clients of any complaints lodged against them such as spam and copyright infringement. “These notifications are forwarded onto our clients in their entirety as and when the IS Abuse Department receive them,” said Padayachee.

Blacklisting and service discontinuation threats

It is entirely understandable and even commendable that clients are notified about complaints lodged against them, but if IS does not threaten service discontinuation or blacklisting where do these threats come from?

Afrihost director Peter Meintjes confirmed that the service discontinuation and blacklisting threats come from them, but he added that they don’t really have a choice because of pressure from their upstream provider Internet Solutions.

Meintjes explains that Afrihost is simply too small and at too much risk to take a stand against these notices, and are merely playing ball to avoid being cut off by IS.

Meintjes argues that it will be desirable for first tier providers such as Internet Solutions to take a stand against the international anti-piracy organizations.

At this stage, Meintjes said, they are essentially bullied by bigger players to threaten their subscribers with copyright infringement warning notices, which not only cause unhappiness among their customers but also clogs up their system and makes it more difficult to address serious complaints about problems such as spam and child pornography.

Meintjes said that Afrihost has not, to the best of his knowledge, ever discontinued any subscribers’ service due to alleged copyright infringement.

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SA ADSL piracy blacklisting warnings: Bullying tactics?