Policing your Internet activity in SA

Web Africa COO Rupert Bryant responded to the Copyright Review Commission’s report which suggested that ISPs should suspend Internet access to repeat copyright infringement offenders, arguing that it is a misdirected effort to protect the Hollywood studios.

The minister of trade and industry, Rob Davies, recently released the “Copyright Review Commission” report, recommending that “The ECT Act should be amended to require ISPs to adopt a graduated response for repeat infringers, culminating in the suspension of access services to an individual”.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) said that they do not support any system where ISPs have to act as copyright police and where copyright infringers lose their Internet access.

Bryant has now added his voice to the fight, saying that he is disappointed with the suggestion that it should be the ISP’s responsibility to police the activity of their users.

“ISPs provide networks that enable our customers to access data on the internet. We are conduits for accessing data, not for analysing data, and as such cannot be held liable for the policing and monitoring of customer content, nor would it be technically practical or ethical to do so,” said Bryant.

“Is Eskom required to tell the government what appliances its customers use electricity to power, and to police whether those appliances are legal or not?”

Rupert Bryant
Rupert Bryant

Bryant argued that for an ISP to take action against their customers, in the absence of a court order, for the interest of another commercial group just because they have access to their information is a violation of consumer rights. Bryant added that it may even be illegal as it infringes on other legislation such as RICA.

“I absolutely agree that IP holders should be protected, but as of yet nobody has produced legislation that does this effectively. Why? Because it goes against the fundamental structure of the Internet,” said Bryant.

“Pirates will continue to circumvent any measures put in place, and typical consumers will be left irritated and inconvenienced by the inevitable, unintended consequences.”

According to Bryant it is unfortunate that South Africa does not seem to be learning from other countries.

“Australia, with one of the most successful telecoms industries in the world, recently spent exhaustive resources investigating this very matter, and after careful deliberation set a landmark decision – a clear precedent that ISPs should not be liable for policing content,” said Bryant.

Bryant said that the better approach is for the content giants to make their media readily available and priced appropriately. “People will use it, the economics are there. Amazon, Netflix and Apple have demonstrated this,” said Bryant.

“Instead of trying to hold back innovation and turn ISP’s into their police force, the future must be embraced,” Bryant concluded.

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Policing your Internet activity in SA