Numerous South African ADSL Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have confirmed that they have received requests for ADSL subscriber information from copyright holders. These requests are typically related to alleged copyright infringements by local BitTorrent (aka torrents) users.
Broadband users around the globe are making use of peer to peer (P2P) file sharing services like BitTorrent to share movies, TV series, and music.
This content is often copyright protected, and the copyright holders have launched many offensives to target online pirates.
South African Internet users have not really been affected by the actions of powerful copyright holders, but this does not mean that they are not being watched.
Many local ISPs have reported that they have received requests from copyright holders to release personal information of their subscribers who are allegedly guilty of online copyright infringement.
The good news for these users is that most local ISPs do not provide the personal information to the companies requesting this information – partly because they do not adhere to local laws.
Cybersmart CEO Laurie Fialkov said that they are receiving requests for subscriber information related to alleged copyright infringements all the time. These requests, said Fialkov, typically come from Sony.
The requests for Cybersmart subscriber info are typically aimed at BitTorrent users who have allegedly pirated movies or music.
Fialkov said that they do not provide any information to the companies because they have no jurisdiction in South Africa.
“Unless they follow the procedure outlined in the Regulation of Interception of Communications and provision of communication-related information Act (RICA), we are not obliged to provide them with any information. So we don’t,” said Fialkov.
These requests, said Kirton, are nearly exclusively related to the use of BitTorrent services.
“The standard request is to disable the account while maintaining any evidence that may be relevant in a lawsuit,” said Kirton.
Kirton said that they do not act on these requests. “Web Africa takes the view that it is not responsible for policing the internet and will only act where required by South African law,” said Kirton.
Barbalich said that the previous requests came from the official content distribution companies, and were aimed at torrent users.
Barbalich said that they do not hand out any personal information of clients unless they get a court order. They do, however, forward the request to the client.
Curiously many other local ISPs said that they have not received such requests. Openweb, Vox Telecom and MWEB have all said that they have not received requests for the personal information of their subscribers on alleged copyright infringement grounds.