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Loopholes for the Digital Economy Bill 2010

by Dark Politricks

The recent Digital Economy Bill 2010 that has just been rushed through parliament without due consideration or debate is another nail in the coffin for a free Internet. However as with most ill thought out law, rushed legislation is bad legislation and clever legal minds should be able to get their teeth into the DEB and come up with some loop holes.

The following summary is taken from an article currently appearing on a UK ISP’s site and I suggest if you are in the UK and worried about the bill then you should read the full article.

Summary

As an ISP there are two main issues we potentially face.

  • 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.

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.

Interesting point on the reseller side. We normally have a contract direct with end users, but in some cases we deal with a reseller or wholesale customer of ours. There is no way to tell from the IP address who that reseller is – it is a purely contractual arrangement. However, without any messing about that reseller is themselves a communications provider. As such notices to us about their customers (subscribers) IPs to not have to be passed on by us. So what does the copyright holder do? We don’t have to tell them who the reseller is (without a court order). And even if they found the reseller, the reseller does not allocate IP addresses (we do), so they don’t provide an internet access service (under the act).

Looks like the devil is in the detail and the Digital Economy Bill is based around three main terms and what role you play. If you can get yourself designated as a communications provider rather than a subscriber then most of bill won’t apply to you.

Plus even if you do get blocked you can easily change ISP and any previous history of infringement gets wiped. Anyone who is doing anything naughty on the web will be going through proxies and VPN’s and using offshore untraceable accounts anyway so if your not doing that and do get caught then its really your own fault.

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Posted in Computing, Dark Politricks Articles, Government, Internet, Legal Matters.

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