My ISP’s Response to the Digital Economy Act

My ISP is UKFSN and there the small kind of ISP which you use to get years ago. They don’t like restricting there customers and they hate things like Phorm and other content interception. So what do they make of the DBill?

Recently the UK government pushed through new legislation aimed to address many aspect of the “digital economy”.

Much of the Act is reasonable and needed to ensure that things like the rollout of digital television and radio services can be accomplished properly. The Act also included various measures to do with the Internet that were not well considered and were certainly not properly debated by Parliament and which have attracted much comment from many different parts of society. As an ISP our position on the Act is limited to the parts that relate to the Internet and the operation of Internet Service Providers, including UKFSN.

The Act seeks to implement measures to protect the rights of copyright holders from unauthorised copying and distribution of the works on which they hold copyright. This is a worthwhile aim however the Act has failed to accomplish what is set out to do for a number of reasons. Firstly the Act is clearly written by people who simply do not understand the Internet and how it is used. This shows in a number of ways but primarily in the manner in which the Act seeks to make ISPs and other network operators responsible to prevent copyright infringement and to act as enforcers for the civil rights of others completely bypassing the courts. This is a serious abuse and is, I believe, a prima facie breach of the Human Rights Act in that it removes the protection of the courts from those accused of unlawful activity.

All ISPs and network operators are bound to operate within and to obey the law. This applies to all laws including the Digital Rights Act. This means that we are obliged to act in response to a valid copyright infringement notice or a valid requirement to block access to a site and we will comply with any such valid requirement. Note that I have emphasised valid. The Act states a number of things that will be necessary for such a report or request to be valid. The most important one of these for copyright infringement notices is that we must act in response to a valid notice from the copyright holder or their authorised agent. In order to comply with this requirement we will need anyone who sends such a report to have registered their copyright in a recognised database to which we have free access and to have registered details of any and all agents who are authorised to make such notice reports to us. Further we will need a means of assuring that any notice or report we receive is really from the registered copyright holder or agent – this means they will need to implement a recognised and reliable digital signature system which we can verify. We simply cannot comply with the Act without this.

The Act specifies that copyright holders and ISPs must share the cost of any systems needed to implement the Act. I strongly believe that, as the only beneficiaries of the Act are copyright holders, they should be the ones to bear the cost. I propose that ISPs implement a system such as I have outlined above and charge copyright holders a very smallannual fee to register each copyright and each agency. This will help to prevent the Act’s requirement on ISPs to act in response to infringement notices from becoming a means for anyone to implement a massive denial of service attack.

I have already had some discussion with other ISPs about this and these ideas are being actively pursued. As things become clearer I will make further statements.

If your ISP isn’t standing against the Digital Rights Act, you really should consider moving to another one and support them.

DBill provisions for ISPs, a series of loopholes

I’ve said very little about the Dbill (Digital Ecomony Act), I’ve actually got a massive post saved up venting why the bill is a joke and how the UK just went back to the stone ages. But I also find it interesting how theres lots of loopholes to be found in the bill, even from a ISP point of view. Actually thats one of the most annoying parts of the bill, the fact that all UK ISPs have to follow these stupid rules even if there doing fine with what they already have.

Here’s some of the concerns

That we have to pass on copyright notices to subscribers and may have to suspend or restrict access to subscribers. This is actually relatively easy for us to do, but has implications for us and the subscribers. For a start, if we do not do things that help our customers then we will lose them. OFCOM have made it easy and cheap for people to change ISP. If they change ISP all of the history of notices disappears and the copyright owner has to start again.

That we could have an order to block locations on the internet. Now, we would hope that as such an order can apply to transit providers or BT wholesale, etc, that anyone making such an order would not go to the bother of making an order against every small ISP. So such an order would not affect us, hopefully. If it did there are allowances for paying our costs. If BT wholesale did DPI based blocking we can work on ways around that by simple obfuscation at the PPP level. If transit provides block a location we can set up tunnels to links outside the UK. We can find ways around blocks if we have to, and so can our customers.

And here’s some of the loopholes,

OK, several ideas come to mind…

  • In the event of a copyright notice, making our customer not a subscriber by allowing them quickly and easily to change who the subscriber is but continue service unchanged.
  • In the event of a copyright notice, making our customer not a subscriber by making them a communications provider. We’re prepared to peer with our customer buying access to our customers IP blocks via their ADSL line for 1p/month. This makes them a communications provide and so not a subscriber. But as their customer is us, a communications provider so not a subscriber, they do not become a service provider and so not themselves subject to most of the regulations.
  • In the event of a copyright notice, making our customer not a subscriber giving them a choice of IP addresses (change of IP). However, by offering a choice and allowing them to pick an IP they have not been allocated an IP address by us. That means their service is not an internet service and so they are not a subscriber.
  • Recording where our customer is a communications provider – which applies if they provide communications to anyone. I suspect many businesses and even homes could buy our service as a communications provider.
  • Operating more than one retail arm selling to customers and allowing customers to migrate freely with no change to service between those retail arms, thus bypassing copyright notice counting and any blocking orders.
  • Making us not a service provider by making all customers not subscribers using either the communications provider or not allocated IPs as above. Hence making us not subject to most of the Act.
  • Not co-operating with copyright holders – if they send a notice which we consider invalid, just delete it.

I know my ISP USFSN will certainly be looking at this list, most of the subscribers to there service pay well over the odds for non-logged non-bothersome unlimited Internet access.