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Ofcom talks to spook firm on filesharing snoop plan

Peering inside your packets

Exclusive Ofcom has held talks over a monitoring system that would peer inside filesharing traffic to determine the level of copyright infringement, in preparation for new laws designed to protect the music, film and software industries.

The Digital Economy Bill, to be published by Lord Mandelson tomorrow, will require the communications regulator to measure how filesharers who exchange copyright material respond to a regime of warning letters.

If the overall level of infringement is not cut by 70 per cent in a year, further provisions will be triggered, compelling ISPs to impose speed restriction after warnings. Internet access will be suspended for the most persistent infringers.

Detica, a BAE subsidiary specialising in large volume data gathering and processing, is aiming for a central role implementing the plan. The well-connected firm has developed CView, a Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) product that looks at the actual content of peer-to-peer traffic to determine whether it is copyright, before calculating the overall level of infringement on a network.

The cost of such a system could be shared between ISPs and rights holders, Detica suggested in its September submission to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' (BIS) consultation on copyright infringement via peer-to-peer networks.

It explained that CView "applies high volume, advanced analytics on anonymised ISP traffic data, and aggregates this information into a single measure of the total volume of copyright infringement". By examining the content of communications, it would measure copyright infringment via newsgroups, as well as via BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer protocols.

"Detica would like to explore with BIS and Ofcom how CView could be used to baseline the level of illicit file sharing activity — ahead of the proposed notification process — and thus measure the impact this remedial action has on filesharing," it added.

Under the government's proposals, it's envisaged that rights holder organisations such as the BPI and the Federation Against Copyright Theft will harvest the IP addresses of infringers from BitTorrent swarms. Detica suggested that a drop in the number of IP numbers collected would not be an accurate enough measure of the impact of the subsequent warning letters.

Ofcom told The Register it had met the firm to learn more about CView, in expectation of the Digital Economy Bill becoming law. "I can confirm we have met with Detica and other stakeholders," a spokeswoman for the regulator said.

In its submission to BIS, Detica said it planned to test its system with a UK ISP soon. "CView is targeted to move into beta trial with a UK ISP during the autumn of 2009," it said.

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