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UK ISP Spots a File-Sharing Loophole, Implements It 179

Posted by kdawson
from the this-way-round dept.
An anonymous reader writes "As well as taking an active part in OFCOM's code of obligations in regards to the ill-conceived Digital Economy Act (the UK three-strikes law for filesharers), niche ISP Andrews & Arnold have identified various loopholes in the law, the main one being that a customer can be classified as a communications provider. They have now implemented measures so in your control panel you may register your legal status and be classed as such." Another of the loopholes this inventive ISP sussed out: "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."
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UK ISP Spots a File-Sharing Loophole, Implements It

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  • Lets get rid of it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by funkatron (912521) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @05:08AM (#32011422)
    Vote pirate, or green or yellow or something like that. Anyone who thought that this was a good idea doesn't deserve to win.
    • by grantek (979387) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @05:11AM (#32011446)

      ISPs siding with the public domain is a good step towards having governments listen to someone other than media corporations - hopefully plenty of people flock to this.

      • How is this "siding with the public domain"? Does this, in any way, increase the number or quality of works in the public domain?

        As far as I can see, all this ISP is doing is siding with pirates, their best customers.

        • by vegiVamp (518171)
          An ISP siding with their customers ? Now there's a novelty.
      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:16AM (#32012150) Journal

        The key issue for me is not the copyright law. I don't care if Paramount and other companies want to protect their income stream on the new Star Trek movie.

        The issue for me is that these 3-strike laws assign punishment without benefit of trial by jury. And once that precedent is set, then the government can further erode the rights of Englishmen. "You were caught stealing three times. 5 years jail for you." - "But I had no trial." - "Precedent shows we don't need to give you a trial. Take him away!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zero.kalvin (1231372)
      I don't know if what I am saying is 100% correct. But people who might vote for Pirate, Green, ect ect. are mostly geeks or people directly involved in this. The problem is that the general population are not very tech savvy or don't care(yet). What is needed now is not voting for these parties(even though it is important, and we should do it), but it's education the general population of the dangers of these laws and how can it affect them. Point is we need advertisement campaign or whatever that might do
      • Lib Dems (Score:5, Informative)

        by FreeUser (11483) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @05:29AM (#32011556)

        I don't know if what I am saying is 100% correct. But people who might vote for Pirate, Green, ect ect. are mostly geeks or people directly involved in this.

        True, and it is unfortunate that the "geek" vote is being split so badly. The LibDems are the only one of the three major parties that stood up to this law (voting against it and calling for its repeal). Whether someone's agreement with them on this issue outweighs any disagreements they may have with them on other issues is an open question.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by VJ42 (860241) *

          I don't know if what I am saying is 100% correct. But people who might vote for Pirate, Green, ect ect. are mostly geeks or people directly involved in this.

          True, and it is unfortunate that the "geek" vote is being split so badly. The LibDems are the only one of the three major parties that stood up to this law (voting against it and calling for its repeal). Whether someone's agreement with them on this issue outweighs any disagreements they may have with them on other issues is an open question.

          Us Pirates only have 9 out of a possible 650 candidates standing; I doubt we'll have an impact on the Lib-dem vote (hell, as there's no PPUK candidate in my area, I'll be voting Lib-dem).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by amw (636271)

          The LibDems are the only one of the three major parties that stood up to this law (voting against it and calling for its repeal).

          They also seem the strongest generally when it comes to following common-sense approach to science; evidence-based policy is one phrase I've heard being banded around as well, which after the various allegations of ministers ignoring their own scientific advisors in the past few months is a welcome relief.

          However, I'm more than just a geek. When it comes to my vote in a week's time, I also have to consider the pros and cons of each party to all the other aspects of my life: my wife, baby son, job, house,

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Grumbleduke (789126)

          I think suggesting that the LibDems "stood up" to this is giving them a little more credit than they deserve. They ended up supporting it in the Lords and even adding the controversial web-censoring clause (I know they tried to get it removed, but it was too late then). As it was, only a handful (14?) of LibDem MPs turned up to vote, and even fewer made any sort of speech.

          The LibDems seem to want to repeal this mainly due to the method by which it was passed, not for the content; they claim they would "take

        • by IrquiM (471313)

          I, as a geek, would vote tory. However, as I've tried to explain to the old ladies trying to get me to vote - I can't as I'm not a citizen!

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by DagdaMor (518567)
            You don't have to be a British Citizen to vote in the British Election, any commonwealth country or Irish citizenship will do.
        • by Aceticon (140883)

          Even better: the latest pools put the LibDems in a position of either winning or being the king-makers in a split parliement (in fact they might even win the popular vote but get less seats in parliement than other parties thanks to the not-really-democratic system in the UK). This is a huge change since they have consistently been the 3rd party in the UK for 50 years or something like that.

          At this point I would change my vote to them if it wasn't for the simple detail that as a non-British EU citizen I don

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Malc (1751)

      Your best bet is to vote Lib-Dem this election, and suck it up until the following election. Then vote Pirate. Assumes though that the Lib-Dems will actually implement a decent form of proportional representation.

      • The best the Lib Dem can hope for is a coalition with the Tories, and that's a god-awful thing to have. Here's my idea of the proportional representation discussion in the Commons, should it occur:

        Clegg: Proportional representation please!
        Cameron: DENIED!

        Ad infinitum, and that will apply for every single decision for the next four years. It will suck.
        • by Malc (1751)

          That wouldn't go on for four years. PR is a fundamental requirement for the Lib-Dems. A coalition only works whilst both parties have each other's support.

          Canada is actually in an interesting position right now. They've had a minority Tory government (a.k.a. hung parliament) for some time, with no coalition. The opposition don't bring them down for two reasons: 1) voters don't want another election yet; 2) none of the opposition parties thinks their support has grown enough to make it worthwhile. Every

      • by delinear (991444)
        I can't imagine that happening - even if the Lib Dems get in, they're not going to win by the kind of landslide that lets them pass legislation without the help of at least one of the other major parties. Lab/Con will never vote for it, because they're the big winners in the non-proportional, non-democratic current system. Maybe if the country sees a long-term switch to a three part race, we might see changes along these lines in a few generations, but I won't hold my breath.
  • by cb95amc (99589) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @05:10AM (#32011442)

    ....that such a well planned and comprehensive peice of legislation would have loopholes. It's almost as if they rushed it through the legislative process, but I'm sure our politicians would never be so careless....

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by thomst (1640045)

      I'm sure our politicians would never be so careless....

      Then you must grow 'em smarter over there than we do over here.

      Could we borrow some of your breeding stock?

      • Then you must grow 'em smarter over there than we do over here. Could we borrow some of your breeding stock?

        Be careful of what you wish for [photochopz.com].

      • by delinear (991444)

        I'm sure our politicians would never be so careless....

        Then you must grow 'em smarter over there than we do over here.

        Could we borrow some of your breeding stock?

        You're assuming that smarter means less greedy. I'd rather have a greedy incompetent politician who screws us over a little than a greedy intelligent politician who screws us over a lot. Of course, what I'd really like is an intelligent politician who wasn't out to line his own pockets, but that's definitely straying into the realms of fantasy.

    • Before this copyright infringement was not a indictable offence i.e only a Civil Offence in which the police have no power and had to be made by the Copyright holder directly on the alleged offender, this is still true but now they can on suspicion only get the ISP to punish the alleged offender without a court order and without a hearing ....

      The ISP will have to pay for (at least part) of this process, and will lose a customer .... No wonder why they are trying to find loopholes

  • Well done (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Janek Kozicki (722688) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @05:15AM (#32011470) Journal

    I hope that the ISP will earn enough money from this, so that they will be able to defend this when faced legal action.

    • Re:Well done (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AlexiaDeath (1616055) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @05:32AM (#32011580)
      So, who will be suing them? The Labels cant. The practice of letting users register as communications providers has nothing to do with them or their content. The state? Over a service they provide for their customers? Not happening. Also UK is not us AFAIK. No punitive damages.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PhilHibbs (4537)

        There must be some redress that the labels can take against an ISP that is ignoring the rules. Now you can say "they aren't ignoring the rules", but the only person that can decide whether they are flouting the law or not is a judge.

        • by delinear (991444)
          The action would still have to be against the end user rather than the ISP, though. The only question is whether the actions of the ISP are sufficient to provide the user with a defense.
      • by Weezul (52464)

        The MafiAA can (1) buy more legislation, (2) pay the police to harass them, (3) sue for contributory infringement, etc. UK is a very shitty place for modern human rights, they'll get stopped eventually.

        That said, if they're clean enough, they'll gain many many customers while the labels react, they might not pay any damages, and they'll surely raise awareness for copyright reform.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iYk6 (1425255)

      That's sort of what I was thinking. Giant corporations can take advantage of loopholes to rip off their customers. Individuals and small businesses can't do that.

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @05:28AM (#32011552)
    I see this as something a Judge will strike down as spurious rather than an actual loophole - Judges love to come down harshly on people they think are deliberately trying to circumvent the law.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AlexiaDeath (1616055)
      If I have wifi hotspot open to the world, nobody can say I'm in any way deliberately skirting the law.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        An ISP having no customers but plenty of peering communications providers at residential addresses is a deliberate attempt to skirt the law.
        • They have customers, but these customers are providers themselves. And actually, this is the reality. Lots of people run open wifi so friends and relatives and whoever visits with their smart phones and netbooks and ipads and laptops would feel welcome. Specially in private housing areas where leeching neighbors are not that much of a threat.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gbjbaanb (229885)

          Well, if that's the case then all those peering network providers are also attempting to skirt the law.

          I could set myself up as a communicatins provider - I've thought of it actually - put a colo server in a datacentre, then offer bandwidth (and web space) to paying customers. But then, why not simply offer payign customers to use my existing bandwidth that I have at home. Its not much, so I can't see many taking my up on my offer, but as I'm offering a niche product that shouldn't be an issue.

          • Well, if that's the case then all those peering network providers are also attempting to skirt the law.

            The difference lies in intention, and that was the point of my original post.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PhilHibbs (4537)

        They can say that you are deliberately breaking the rule that says anyone providing communications services must monitor and log the usage of that service.

    • by physicsphairy (720718) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @05:40AM (#32011616) Homepage

      They are only circumventing the intended aims of the people who lobbied the law into being.

      Regarding the written law itself, they are legitimately following and making use of the provisioned measures. It doesn't sound like they are relying on particularly liberal interpretations of the text, but rather are going off of what it plainly states.

      Granted, I don't know a great deal about UK law, but it sounds to me like it's rather more on the legislature want to remove these elements than for judges to sit down and play psychoanalyst of the "offender" and for the legislature simultaneously.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Granted, I don't know a great deal about UK law, but it sounds to me like it's rather more on the legislature want to remove these elements than for judges to sit down and play psychoanalyst of the "offender" and for the legislature simultaneously.

        A case usually has to reach an appeals court before a Judge start delving into legislative/parlimentary intent.
        If a law is vaguely worded, legislative/parlimentary intent allows a Judge to essentially remove the vagaries through judicial fiat.
        If the law is clearly worded, a Judge has no choice but to dismiss and suggest that the politicians fix their mistakes.

  • Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlexiaDeath (1616055) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @05:29AM (#32011558)
    A communications provider is say someone that operates a free Wifi hot-spot and they are immune? And anyone can sign up? O_o Somebody has effectively neutered the entire law. You guys really vote some Pirate party to your parliament to properly put an end to this crap properly tho.
    • by dwarfsoft (461760)
      Except that they are trying to <A href="http://mobile.slashdot.org/story/10/02/28/1432203/UK-Bill-Would-Outlaw-Open-Wi-Fi?from=rss">ban open Wifi too</a>.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dwarfsoft (461760)
        Oops, link [slashdot.org]. Forgot my preferences were changed ;). Preview fail.
      • I think that was the plan, but it seems it didn't fly. Hence the registration.
      • The passage of text relating to that was being discussed a few months back made it look like using WEP and posting the password on the wall would be enough to get around the restrictions, at least as far as cafes with internet access and so on are concerned.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tdobson (1391501)

      I'm *trying* to get elected!

      --Tim Dobson, Pirate Party Candidate, Manchester Gorton

      http://votepirate.org/gorton [votepirate.org]
      http://amiapirate.org/ [amiapirate.org]

      • Too bad I cant vote for you on account of not being the subject of your queen, but good luck.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:10AM (#32011780) Homepage

      A communications provider is say someone that operates a free Wifi hot-spot and they are immune?

      Doesn't even have to be that. The contract for the line coming into my house is with me. My wife and kids use that line, without a contract with the ISP. How could they do that if I - the contracted individual - wasn't providing them with the service?

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Tim C (15259) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:57AM (#32012416)

        That's very interesting indeed; I live alone, but my daughter and her mother live literally across the street, and they share my (secured) wifi connection. I most certainly am providing a service to them, and they don't even live under my roof.

      • by houghi (78078)

        Does not even have to be that. I provide copyrighted movies to others with file sharing, so I am a content provider as well. Man this is the bestest loophole ever. If you do what they want to avoid, the law makes itself void.

        (Yeah, I could have said sharing Linux distro's. Oh and I do not live in the UK, so other laws apply to me.)

    • by VJ42 (860241) *

      You guys really vote some Pirate party to your parliament to properly put an end to this crap properly tho.

      If by some fluke we [pirateparty.org.uk] do manage to get one of our 9 candidates [pirateparty.org.uk] elected we'd actually have a real voice this time around as the polls show [ukpollingreport.co.uk] we're heading for a hung Parliament [wikipedia.org]

  • Surely teams of experts would have been consulted, and this would have been debated several times in several houses, with considerable thought put into the criticisms of those opposing it! The only way we could have all these silly loopholes is if it was somehow rushed. But why would the government ever do that with such important legislation?
  • by Grumbleduke (789126) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:25AM (#32011856) Journal

    Just looking through the list, I'm not particularly excited by their loop-holes.

    • Ok, I'll accept that this is quite cunning; however, it is basically just shifting the burden. It means that rather than needing n strikes, you'll need 2n-1 strikes (assuming two people capable of signing the subscriber agreement). They will all still go on the list of alleged infringements and any allegations (from what I remember of the debates; can't find the Hansard quote) stay with you for some time, even if you switch ISP. - Ineffective
    • I'm a little worried by becoming a "communications provider". There are over 400 sections of the Communications Act 2003 [opsi.gov.uk] most of which seems to be aimed at laying down rules and laws for communications providers. I haven't read this Act thoroughly, but I think this will just end up placing a huge burden on the unsubscriber (like the provisions on Data Retention, or registering with the Information Commissioner - that sort of thing). Even then, it could be argued that if you are a communications provider, then you must provide the service to some sort of subscriber (even if it is just you) so then you become the target of all the initial obligations and liable for carrying them out. - Could cause a lot of trouble
    • This hinges on the definition of "allocation". Not sure how well this would hold up in Court (when the ISP is taken to court for not carrying out its obligations). However, it is a good example of what happens when you have an Act "debated" only briefly by people who mostly don't understand the context. - Possible, but might not hold up.
    • Comments to the second point apply here as well. Could work, but will likely be highly problematic for the unsubscriber. Also, this would only apply to some users, not all. - Problematic and limited
    • This was discussed in the Lords (should be quotes somewhere in Hansard) and there was an idea that the copyright notice count should follow you from one ISP to another. It's not explicit in the Act (from what I can see), but could be in the Code. It probably will be now. - Probably covered
    • This seems to hinge on the definition of an ISP. The definition is quite loose, and the three criteria are that they have subscribers (also defined quite loosely), they mainly or entirely provide access to the Internet and allocate IP addresses. The first and third have already been discussed, but the second might work; you'd need to find another primary business for the ISP - i.e. they sell invisible pink unicorns, but you get an Internet connection free with every monthly sale. - Could work
    • Well, this one should be a given. If they receive an invalid notice, they should delete it (or if I get my way, take action against whoever sent it). Of course, what makes it valid will be in the Code. The main criteria would be ensuring the evidence of infringement was up to standards (standards that aren't defined yet) and that whoever sent the notice actually owns the copyright. Both of these could require a lot of effort from the ISP to check. Also, if the ISP doesn't comply with the DEA, under Section 14 (2) they can be fined up to £250,000. This isn't something small ISPs are likely to mess with. Not really a loop-hole

    So, while I am impressed that at least one ISP has thoroughly read through the Act and is trying to work against it, I think their loop-holes aren't going to be that good in practice (with the one exception). Still, their draft Code seems to have highlighted many of the key points, and I hope that they will get heavily involved with the Code-drafting process.

    The best way to get around this sort of thing is to either fight for repealing the Act (so vote Pirate or Green - while the Lib Dems have said they want to repeal it, that's due to the process by which it was passed, they still seem mostly in favour of the content) or making sure that the Code approved

    • by Weezul (52464)

      Did not the European court rule the three-strikes thing was a violation of fundamental human rights? The UK might get away with it only because you can change ISP.

      • Did not the European court rule the three-strikes thing was a violation of fundamental human rights?

        My understanding is that the European Parliament passed a directive that means three-strikes style laws can't operate without judicial process. When Spain started working on this sort of thing, I think one of the Commissioners warned them that it would likely lead to conflict with the Commission.

        At the moment, there is nothing in the Act that, from what I see, conflicts with this - but once the code comes out, this might change. I would not be surprised if, when the powers in the DEA are used for the first

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:58AM (#32012052)

    Disclaimer: I am a happy A&A customer.

    At least AAISP are attempting to bring to light the shortcomings of the law, as well as taking part in the OFCOM part of the regulatory process. Believe me that AAISP were also attempting early on to bring attention to this law and lobbying as much as they could themselves.
    I've spoken to the owner. He does not believe in supporting pirates, but he does believe in due process and fairness. Things that the DEA is not.(to customers or the ISP's) If a court order is provided AAISP will happily process it, however someone randomly pointing at an IP and saying "they've downloaded something of mine, cut them off unless they can unequivocally prove otherwise" unfairly reverses the burden of proof.

    AAISP just wants to be a neutral carrier, operating within the (sane) law and rightly so.

    They particularly deserve mention on Slashdot as a geeks ISP. There aren't many ISP's that provide the following...

    • Support native (and tunnelled) IPv6
    • Give you real IPv4 IP's _for free_. If you request a /27 they will _give_ you it
    • Proper technical staff on IRC,email and phone ready to answer questions.
    • Graphing and full control of your line from the web.
    • A real, uncensored, non-traffic managed, non-port blocked line (No IWF watchlist here)

    They aren't as cheap as the bucket providers, but then you get what you pay for....

    • by VJ42 (860241) *
      Between news and your review, it seems as though I've found my next ISP.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gbjbaanb (229885)

        one more thing for A&A is that they offer IPv6 across the board, included in your service for free.

        They've always been a more "advanced" ISP in the UK.

    • by Fzz (153115)
      Agreed - I've been an AAISP customer for five years now. They're excellent all round, both technically and their service. I've got IPv6 and a /27 static IPv4 subnet. Never see any congestion in their network - pretty much always get the sync rate (minus the headers, etc).

      What I really appreciate is their "no-bull$hit" service. As with any network, occasionally things will go wrong - not very often - but when they do, they're always very upfront with frequent status update. You always know where you s

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