Around the world Internet service providers are being placed under pressure to do something about the millions of customers who download and share copyright infringing content.
Major ISPs in the United States, for example, are currently participating in the so-called “six strikes” scheme operated by the major studios and recording labels. Under this project users are given up to six warnings before a range of measures are applied to their accounts.
The measures – which copyright holders insist need to be punitive – are problematic for ISPs. Consumers keep their companies and punishing them too hard isn’t good for business, especially since disappointed customers can simply sign up to a new provider.
However, according to a report coming out of Italy, a local ISP is so concerned about threats coming out of Hollywood it is now threatening to discard customers who download and share copyright infringing material.
According to news outlet Repubblica, one of its readers who subscribes to an ISP in the north of the country received correspondence after being caught downloading movies and TV shows by various Hollywood studios.
“We have received numerous reports of misuse from multiple rights holders (Viacom, Paramount, MGM and other distribution companies) by direct means or from their legal offices,” the mail begins.
“They contain precise details about the material downloaded, download times, the IP address used, the ownership rights of the person making the report, contact details and valid certificate digital signatures plus confirmation of the authenticity of the sender and message content.”
Of course, these kinds of warning notices are nothing new and millions are sent every month. However, the ISP warns that if it does not take measures to stop the infringements, it could be considered “an accomplice to the offenses”. On that basis alone it must take action.
“We ask you to kindly give us feedback within 48 hours. In the case of failure [to respond] or incorrect feedback we’ll be forced to proceed with the cancellation of the service,” the correspondence concludes.
In a comment, copyright lawyer Guido Scorza said that while the ISP’s threats are unusual, they are permissible.
“The conduct of the provider is curious but not illegal. In the event that the ISP cancels the user agreement you could outline, however, an abuse of rights,” Scorza explains.
“Withdrawing unilaterally due to Internet problems is one thing, doing it because a third party claims that a customer is responsible for piracy is something else. Only a court can decide if a user is a pirate or not,” the lawyer says.
Repubblica hasn’t yet named the ISP in question but did speak to its CEO who told the publication that it receives hundreds of complaints from rightsholders and their lawfirms. The notice being sent out to subscribers underlines the company’s position.
“What is required now from us is to ensure that the connection is no longer used for illegal downloading activity and to protect the connection in the event that [the customer] is sure he has never downloaded anything,” it reads.
The question of ISP liability is a thorny one, but increasingly the world’s largest entertainment companies are moving towards an insistence that repeat infringers must be dealt with. Clearly some are taking those threats to their logical conclusion.