ISPs in the Dock

A potentially groundbreaking ruling in Belgium could change the file sharing landscape in Europe and beyond. A Belgian court has ruled against local ISP Scarlet (ex-Tiscali) to start filtering out infringing P-to-P content on their networks. A 6 month deadline has been imposed. The court went as far as recommending using Audible Magicís audio fingerprinting technology but also listed other solutions.

The IFPI welcomed the ruling and CEO John Kennedy said:

ďThis is an extremely significant ruling which bears out exactly what we have been saying for the last two years – that the internetís gatekeepers, the ISPs, have a responsibility to help control copyright-infringing traffic on their networks. The court has confirmed that the ISPs have both a legal responsibility and the technical means to tackle piracy. This is a decision that we hope will set the mould for government policy and for courts in other countries in Europe and around the world.Ē

One of the frustrations of the music industry has been the apparent unwillingness of ISPs to tackle file sharing using technical solutions on their networks, such as filtering technology. A few years ago P2P was a key driver of broadband uptake. (By way of example BT had a TV broadband advert that suggested consumers sign up to download music even though they didnít have a music service of their own.)

The game has changed now. The early adopter file sharers are on board and remaining growth is from mass market consumers e.g. families. Added to that ISPs are looking at extra ways to drive revenue as margins in the access business face continuing downward pressure. Running their own content offerings is one part of that solution. The net result is that ISPs are actually now concerned about trying to control and limit the impact of bandwidth hungry file sharing activity. So now is as good a time as ever for the music industry to reach out to the ISPs, as their goals are no longer so far apart.

My colleague Ian Fogg (Jupiter’s EU Broadband analyst) points out that video file sharing is a much bigger deal for ISPs than music. Furthermore, most don’t have music services though many have or are planning video services. He suggests that consequently ISPs may not be that interested in listening to the music industry compared, for example, to the movie studios.