BT blasts BPI's file-sharing evidence

Accusations fly as music industry and Britain's biggest ISP fall out over file-sharing clampdown

Barry Collins
29 Sep 2009

Britain's biggest ISP and the BPI are locked in a bitter battle of words over the treatment of alleged illegal file sharers.

The music industry group launched a scathing attack on BT in the national press over the weekend, with BPI chief Geoff Taylor branding BT "shameless" for failing to tackle file sharers. The BPI claims it has identified more than 100,000 cases of illegal file sharing on BT's network since February, but that BT has "failed to act on a single one of those".

BT has reacted angrily the accusations. The ISP claims it agreed to send out warning letters to just 1,000 alleged file sharers under a memorandum of understanding signed at the beginning of the year. However, BT claims the BPI deluged it with more than twenty times the agreed figure, many of which were inaccurate.

"During this period, the BPI sent us around 21,000 alleged cases, but less than two-thirds proved to be properly matched to an IP address of a BT customer and not a duplicate, so this could indicate that the true extent of this activity is much lower than the 100,000 number the BPI claim since February," BT claims in a statement.

"In addition, since none of the customers we wrote to during the trial were subsequently taken to court by the BPI, we don't know whether they were actually guilty of infringement."

If you're aware your network is being used for copyright infringement, you have a moral obligation to act

BT admits that the BPI has continued to send reports of alleged file-sharing activity on its network, but says that there was no agreement to act beyond that initial 12-week trial.

"The 12-week agreement was brokered by the Government," a BT spokesman told PC Pro. "There was no agreement after the 12 weeks. There was supposed to be follow-up discussions over who should pay for enforcement in the future. That hasn't happened."

BT also claims the BPI failed to stick to its side of the bargain. "The rights holders were meant to be coming up with a public education programme, which hasn't happened," the BT spokesman added. "The rights holders were meant to look at new business models, which hasn't happened."

"Moral obligation to act"

The BPI says that BT has a duty to act upon its reports of alleged file sharing. "All ISPs know the exact proportion of overall traffic that is peer-to-peer," a BPI spokesman told PC Pro. "It's a sizeable proportion of their traffic. It's very safe to say the overwhelming majority of that [peer-to-peer] traffic is illegal."

"The evidence we are providing includes IP addresses, time and date stamps, and details of the individual files [downloaded]. The evidence is entirely robust - it's been accepted in more than 150 court cases.

"If you're aware your network is being used for copyright infringement, you have a moral obligation to act."

BT says it can't tell how much of the traffic passing over its network is illegal. "We definitely do not know the extent of illegal file sharing on our network," it claims.

"Many peer to peer applications are perfectly legal, such as World of Warcraft, BBC iPlayer and Skype. To investigate the exact nature of each peer-to-peer packet would involve an intrusive level of inspection of people's traffic and customers would rightly complain about BT infringing their privacy where we to do it."

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