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Virgin trials P2P deep packet snooping

Copyright infringement probe

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Virgin Media has begun trials of new packet-sniffing software designed to measure the level of illicit music-sharing over its network.

This article originally stated that Virgin Media's trial of CView has begun. This was incorrect, the system has not yet been implemented. We regret the error.

The trial will see Virgin monitor about 40 per cent of its customers — none of whom will be informed of their participation. Virgin insists that the system seeks only to determine the amount of file-sharing traffic that infringes on copyright and that it will disregard data that can finger individual users.

The software, called CView, is provided by Detica, a BAE Systems subsidiary that specializes in high volume data collection. The ISP is using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to detect peer-to-peer traffic over its customers' broadband connections. P2P files are then matched against a third-party database of songs to determine if they violate copyright.

Virgin claims that CView will keep customers anonymous by stripping out the user's IP address from each packet and replacing it with a randomly-generated identifier. The ISP said it's intentions are not to identify individual infringers, but rather to gain a statistical view of digital piracy.

"We believe identifying the customer is an invasive use of DPI," Dan Klien, Detica's media accounts director, told El Reg last December.

Virgin told the TimesOnline this week that the technology doesn't violate UK and European legislation against interception of personal information because customer information is kept anonymous.

However, having an impressively sizable statistic at hand regarding illegal file-sharing on one of the UK's largest broadband providers could help music labels justify high damages in lawsuits against copyright infringers. ®

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