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BT Broadband accuses P2P users of copyright abuse

EU Copyright Directive to spawn wider bans?

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BT is threatening to kick users of P2P applications off its broadband service, citing copyright abuse.

This is a new development at the monster telco which has already shown its commercial antipathy to file-sharing sites (Last year it introduced a policy of restricting bandwidth to P2P sites from its ADSL service.)

Last week, Reg reader Robert Brown received a letter from the BTBroadband abuse team accusing him of distributing copyrighted material via his account.

The letter (a copy of which was sent to The Register) ordered him to stop distributing such material within 24 hours of face having his account terminated, for breaching the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for the no-frills ADSL service.

Brown could find no mention of not being allowed to use P2P in the policy, though in the Usenet section there is an injunction to observe copyright issues and not to "post material that you did not create, unless you have the permission of the owner of the relevant rights in that material".

He contacted BTBroadband's abuse team and was told that the letter was sent out after BT's systems detected he was using file-sharing applications. It was implied during the conversation that downloading files is acceptable, but once they land in a shared folder and become available to the world a user becomes in breach of contract.

Brown, who lives in Northern Ireland, is concerned that he is accused of breaching a clause in BT's AUP that doesn't seem to exist. He also takes exception to BT's policy prohibiting the use of file-sharing applications.

"From what they are saying, it would seem that it is impossible to use P2P on BTBroadband any more, since as soon as something is shared (whether you own the copyright or not) it triggers their automated systems to send out nasty letters, effectively accusing you of being a pirate."

Brown denies this accusation of piracy.

"I do use KaZaA to try and find obscure music, mainly concert bootlegs which I can't get anywhere else, but doesn't nearly everyone use some sort of P2P these days? I certainly don't go out to infringe copyright and if I can buy the music on CD then I do (I don't rate MP3 music quality)," he added.

The ISPA took my P2P away

We asked the ISP Association (ISPA) if other UK ISPs banned file sharing applications. The group does not monitor this, but a spokesman said the recent (and controversial) EU Copyright Directive could encourage more ISPs to tighten terms over P2P applications. These are linked in the minds of the entertainment industry to copyright abuse.

According to the ISPA the Acceptable Use Policy of service providers commonly contains clauses warning users against violating international law, which among other matters protects copyright-protected material.

The UK last week published a consultation document of the European Union Copyright Directive, which critics argue will limit the fair use of copyrighted material, ahead of legislation to bring British laws into line with the controversial policy. The consultation period ends on October 31.

Although most of the provisions in the Directive apply to technical methods to prevent copyright circumvention, the ISPA spokesman said that ISPs are reviewing their policies ahead of the directive.

He wasn't sure how many, if any, other ISPs banned P2P applications but it seems that the EU Copyright Directive is a factor pushing them in that direction. ®

Have you been warned off using P2P apps by BT or any other ISP? Email us with the details.

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