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Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC

And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC that markets its products around the world, has told Australia's government that heavy users of “IP obfuscation tools” are so suspicious that internet service providers (ISPs) should consider them as likely content pirates.

The organisation states that case in a submission (PDF) to Australia's consultation online copyright infringement, a government effort to decide how the nation should deal with illegal downloading of films and television shows.

The Beeb blames the rise of piracy on the combination of decentralised peer-to-peer technologies and virtual private networks, but doesn't suggest stuffing those cats back in the bag. Instead, it calls for education programs to stop Australians pirating.

It also wants ISPs to act as its enforcers, under some circumstances.

“ISPs should be required to respond to notifications from rights holders who discover infringing content online to remove such content or to identify copyright infringers, and to take action to address such concerns,” the submission states. There's also a call for a “graduated notification system” whereby ISPs warn customers about their actions, the power for ISPs to slow down repeat offenders' connections and court oversight for any regime allowing connections to be terminated.

The submission also makes this suggestion:

“It is reasonable for ISPs to be placed under an obligation to identify user behaviour that is ‘suspicious’ and indicative of a user engaging in conduct that infringes copyright. Such behaviour may include the illegitimate use by internet users of IP obfuscation tools in combination with high download volumes. The determination of what an ‘illegitimate’ use of such tools is, and the threshold of what would be considered a ‘high’ download volume over a period of time, would need to take into account legitimate explanations in order to avoid false positives and to safeguard the fundamental rights of consumers — such matters would be open to further industry discussion and agreement.”

Elsewhere in the submission BBC Worldwide calls for Australia to block known sources of pirated material hosted offshore and for the all of the nation's ISPs to adopt the same copyright protection code.

There's also a call for appeal mechanisms, as follows:

“It is important that consumers have a right of review or appeal in the event their rights are affected under any new scheme. Consumers should have an available mechanism to challenge what are perceived to be unfair, or incorrect, ‘warnings’ issued by an ISP if a consumer is identified as having infringed copyright.”

BBC Worldwide says these measures are needed because Australians are rampant pirates. 13,000 aussie IP addresses, the submission says, tried to access the recently-escaped rough cuts of new Doctor Who episodes. That rankles because the organisation now permits simulcasts of new Who episodes so they screen in Australia at the same time as in the UK debut. Those 4:30 AM screenings see new episodes made available on a legitimate catch-up TV service in Australia within moments of UK broadcasts concluding.

The submission is one of many received during the consultation. Australia's government has indicated it will seek to amend the nation's Copyright Act in the near future, the better to crimp piracy. ISPs dislike the thrust of many submissions' argument, namely that they should accept all allegations of piracy and do rights-holders' bidding immediately. ®

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