South African BitTorrent users beware

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN recently announced it will collect IP addresses and other evidence to prosecute those using BitTorrent to share copyrighted content.

BREIN said it received permission from the Dutch data protection authority to collect the IP addresses of pirating BitTorrent users.

This raises the question: Will anti-piracy groups in South Africa require permission to collect the IP addresses of local BitTorrents users?

According to the managing director of the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft (Safact), Jacques Allers, an IP address is not considered personal data, and can be collected without permission.

“An IP address can only be considered personal data when combined with other user-specific data, such as when it is used to build a personal profile,” said Allers.

This is in reference to the Promotion of Access to Information and the Electronic Communications and Transactions Acts, he said.

Allers said that Safact, with its partners, collects and uses IP addresses to support their fight against copyright infringement.

“It should be noted that the use of BitTorrent to download copyright-infringing content is a criminal offence and a number of agencies are working to monitor and catalogue international torrent activity.”

“Safact, together with their international partner the Motion Picture Association and other specialised service providers, utilises such information to remain vigilant in the fight against global piracy.”

Allers said Safact used an IP address to arrest the first person formally accused of online piracy in South Africa for distributing the film Four Corners through The Pirate Bay.

After collecting the IP address of the BitTorrent uploader, a court order was obtained and his ISP subpoenaed for his information.

This led to the arrest of the offender, and resulted in an out-of-court settlement.

“SA legislation currently requires a court order to allow access to such information associated with an IP address,” said Allers.

“Safact is actively involved in the lobbying for improvement of copyright and cyber-related legislation.”

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South African BitTorrent users beware