ADSL, Piracy and Abuse Warnings

Numerous ADSL subscribers have received warnings from their Internet Service Provider (ISP) about illegal download activity on their account.  These warnings do not only alert the ADSL subscriber about illegal downloading of content, but also threaten the user with account suspension and blacklisting. 
One ADSL subscriber posted the following correspondence:   “IS (Internet Solutions) has informed us that you are downloading illegal software. Please note that illegal software will not be tolerated on the IS network. If you could please refrain from using BitTorrent again. Reason being that IS has your IP address and they will block you as well as black list you.” Other subscribers with IS accounts have posted similar warnings.

While users are threatened with account suspension for the continued use of file sharing services like BitTorrent, anecdotal evidence suggests that users are not cut off despite the warnings.

In a recent case where an Axxess subscribers received an SMS saying “Dear Axxess Subscriber, [your account] is suspended due to abuse (illegal software).”  This subscriber however said that his account was not suspended, and that he was told:  “Please ignore that email, it was only a warning. Your account has not been suspended.”

Internet Solutions explains

The service provider behind the piracy warnings is Internet Solutions (IS), the upstream bandwidth provider of ISPs like Web Africa and Axxess.  IS however pointed out that they do not monitor users’ Internet usage or torrent use. 

“IS simply forwards complaints received to clients or resellers.  Internet Solutions’ Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), which customers accept on signing the Terms and Conditions of Service, clearly states that the infrastructure may be used only for lawful purposes,” said Mark Hamburger from IS.  “We will however only react upon receipt of an abuse complaint.”

Hamburger further pointed out that ADSL accounts will only be suspended for prolonged and clear unambiguous abuse of their AUP, and never without adequate warning.

As for the complaints about piracy, Hamburger said that all abuse complaints are forwarded in their original, received format with the relevant information regarding the illegal activity included.  “If the IS Abuse Department doesn’t receive the relevant information regarding the infringement, the complaint will be discarded,” said Hamburger.

Piracy complaints and monitoring illegal?

Reinhardt Buys, Senior Manager of Technology Law at Deloitte & Touche, said that the warnings sent out by IS may well be invalid and even illegal in South Africa. 

“These kinds of notices are illegal and invalid in SA. In terms of the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act an Internet download may not be intercepted or monitored in this way without the prior written consent of the user,” said Buys.

“Doing so is a criminal offence. In other words, collecting this kind of evidence is a criminal offence subject to a R1-million fine. An ISP should not be using illegal, unconstitutional and invalid evidence in order to intimidate users,” Buys concluded.

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ADSL, Piracy and Abuse Warnings