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ISPs relieved not to be Carter's Cops

There will be no disconnection today, gentlemen

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Digital Britain ISPs greeted Carter with a sigh of relief, LINX head of public affairs told us today. In response to copyright infringement, ISPs will not now need to deploy expensive packet inspection - and won't disconnect users.

"The threats are off the table," says Malcolm Hutty. "The government has recognised that the principle responsibility for protecting their own property lies with the music industry. The ISPs duty is to co-operate. It's not ISPs' responsibility to solve the music industry's problems completely."

LINX is the co-operatively owned internet backbone exchange.

Hutty said that the document's recognition of legitimate uses of P2P was emblematic of what he called "a welcome rebalancing". Nevertheless, while much of the internet's traffic is infringing material, the Carter has shifted the burden to copyright holders.

Under the proposed Carter framework, copyright holders will need to collect the IPs of infringers themselves and notify the ISP. The ISP is obliged to log the complaint, then after a certain number of repeat offences, the copyright holder can request to identify the account in a tribunal. The accused will then get a chance to answer the accuser.

There are also technical issues with networks which don't affix a static IP to a consumer account - which is most of them.

It's all a long, long way from the automated system for which the ISP would pay to maintain. So deep packet inspection is not to be a pro-active policing tool, it seems, but a traffic management measure.

So far from a roadmap to the future, Carter returns us to where we in 2006: before talk of Three Strikes, and the Belgian court's decision - since overturned - that ISPs must clean up their networks.

In non-attributable discussions with parties both sides of the ISP-music debate today, there was common agreement that both business sectors need partnership to avoid being commoditised over what one called "increasingly dumb pipes": with widespread regret that Virgin had been unable to launch its radical P2P offering.

There was also much puzzlement and little support for the "Rights Agency" quango proposed by Carter - although one source described it as a vestigal proposal left in to save face.

So it's back to the future, with little resolved. But today, ISPs are the most relieved. ®

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