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Monday, March 17, 2008

Japanese ISPs to Ban File-Sharers from the Internet

Japanese ISPs to Ban File-Sharers from the Internet


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Continues disturbing trend of ISPs agreeing to terminate the connections of customers who ignore warnings to cease illegal file-sharing activity.


It's quickly and quietly becoming the year that ISPs around the world have decided to become the world's copyright cops. It began in France almost four months ago with an agreement between ISPs, copyright holders, and so-called "protectors" of French culture who hammered out a three-strikes-and-you-out policy for persistent illegal file-sharers.


In return for the govt's crackdown on illegal file-sharing, the French music industry agreed to drop DRM protections for French music, and the French movie industry also agreed to speed up the release of movies on DVD. For these "concessions" to the entertainment industry ISPs get to intrude on everybody's privacy, file-sharers and non file-sharers, and inspect each and every data packet that travels on their network for copyright infringing material.


ISPs in the UK are under similar pressure with the government there threatening legislation to force ISPs to filter their networks of copyrighted material unless they act to do so on their own.


Australia was the most recent country to begin examining the possibility of ISP-level content filtering, but as of yet has made no official plans to do so.


Now comes word that Japan is the latest country to begin formal efforts to terminate the internet connections of anyone "repeatedly accused" of illegal file-sharing. A three-strikes-and-you-out policy seems to be the most likely conclusion here.


Faced with mounting complaints from the music, movie and video-game industries, four associations representing Japan's ISPs have agreed to a plan that will terminate the Internet connections of those illegal file-sharers who ignore e-mail warnings to stop the practice.


According to reports in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, ISPs there will set up a panel next month involving groups representing copyright holders to draft the new guidelines, the report said.


The actions would be among the strictest in fighting online piracy.


The same newspaper also estimated that 1.75 million people in Japan use file-sharing software, mostly the one known as "Winny," to illegally share files online.


One ISP there considered such a plan to disconnect illegal file-sharers two years ago, but decided to drop the plan after the country's Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said it may violate privacy laws. But now they believe the effort may be possible if they simply disconnect specific users having first been identified as repeat copyright law offenders.


What makes the affair really scary is that it's slowly becoming evident that ISPS will indeed become the gatekeepers of the Internet. As one group of interests is allowed to block or inspect content as it sees fit, so too will others inevitably want a seat at the filtering table.


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