This is when SA’s ISPs hand over the private information of pirates

MultiChoice recently advertised an opening for a Cyber Piracy Investigator.

The tasks of this person will be to monitor local and international torrent sites, NZB sites, cyberlockers, and streaming sites.

They must then identify server locations and content, ISPs and hosts, and profile South African “seeders, leeches or suspects”.

But if tracked down, would your ISP disclose your personal information to a company pursuing a copyright infringement case against you?

We know that at least one ISP in South Africa has done so, after it was compelled to by court order.

This was after a case was brought against Majedien Norton by the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft.

Norton was accused of uploading the locally-produced film Four Corners to The Pirate Bay in 2013. He pleaded guilty for a suspended sentence.

We asked SA’s top ISPs whether they have ever disclosed a subscriber’s information as part of a copyright infringement investigation, and this is what they had to say.


Greg Wright, Webafrica

No, only a court order could make us – Webafrica

Webafrica said it has never disclosed customer information in relation to a copyright investigation.

The company said clients’ private information is only disclosed to the proper authorities if they follow the correct procedures.

“We would only disclose subscriber details to the police and courts on presentation of a subpoena,” it said.


Derek Hershaw Mweb

Not that we are aware of – MWEB

MWEB said it will only disclose subscriber details on receipt of a section 205 subpoena in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

It has received such subpoenas, but MWEB said nothing in its records specifically refers to copyright infringement.

“Sometimes the subpoenas are quite general and will simply refer to an ‘offence in terms of Electronic Communications and Transactions Act’, so it’s not always clear exactly what is being investigated.”


Laurie Fialkov

Yes, but on court order only – Cybersmart

Cybersmart said it has disclosed subscriber information in relation to a copyright infringement investigation, but only because it was given a court order.

It said it is well documented in RICA under which circumstances it must release a subscriber’s personal information.

There is also information that the Promotion of Access to Information Act can compel ISPs to release.

“This is basic subscriber information like company name and contact details. To find out what that person was doing or to get access to logs, they need a court order in terms of RICA,” said Cybersmart.


Crystalweb logo on blue

No, the law has not forced us to – Crystal Web

Crystal Web said it has not, and unless it is forced to by law it will not release subscriber details as part of an investigation into copyright infringement.

“Our legal director has committed to rather going to jail than to compromise the law or someone’s identity for what can be considered nonsense civil matters,” the ISP said.

It did provide an example where the ISP recently worked with members of the child protection unit during an investigation that lead to the prosecution of individuals taking advantage of children.

“By ensuring that authorities act only within the bounds of the law, we ensure that we’ve done our part.”


Afrihost's Gian Visser

No, a court order has not compelled us – Afrihost

Afrihost said it has received copyright infringement notices, but it does not disclose personal information to any other parties.

“We would have to be compelled by court order from a South Africa court,” it said.

The ISP said it would review any instruction closely with its legal team before disclosing personal information, especially in light of the Protection of Personal Information Act, and the Consumer Protection Act.


Cell C logo on blue

We can’t say what we’ve disclosed – Cell C

Cell C said it only discloses subscriber information if it receives a lawful request from the relevant enforcement agencies.

“The content of these requests cannot be disclosed,” said Cell C.


Vodacom logo

We would not be able to establish if you infringed copyright – Vodacom

Vodacom said it does not inspect the content of its subscribers’ Internet activity.

It would therefore not be able to establish if a subscriber infringed on anyone’s copyright.

Vodacom said it would disclose your information when instructed to do so, under its legal and regulatory obligations.


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This is when SA’s ISPs hand over the private information of pirates