Possible UK P2P legislative crackdown faces privacy, technological hurdles

A Labour Party politician in the UK has threatened legislation to crack down on file-sharing if British ISPs don't take measures of their own. Concerned that ISPs aren't doing enough to stem the traffic in copyrighted video and music, parliamentary Undersecretary for Innovation, Universities, and Skills Lord Triesman believes that laws mandating a crackdown may be the only option. 苏州美睫美甲

Lord Triesman's comments come in the wake of this week's arrest of the administrator of popular P2P site OiNK and the seizure of its servers. OiNK was shut down after a two-year investigation by the IFPI and UK music trade group BPI.

Lord Triesman holds out hopes that negotiations between rights holders and British ISPs will produce some sort of voluntary agreement in the near future. "Our preferred position is that we shouldn't have to regulate," he told the BBC. "If we can't get voluntary arrangements, we will legislate."

Predictably, the BPI is over the moon at the thought of tough copyright legislation. "We greatly welcome the government reiterating its view that ISPs should work with us to tackle the problem of internet piracy, or else face legislation," BPI CEO Geoff Taylor told the BBC.

At the other end of the spectrum, the UK-based Internet Service Providers Association is vehemently opposed to any such legislation. While pointing out that the group is opposed to copyright infringement, a spokesperson told the BBC that any such legislation would be infeasible. "ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope."

Actually, it may not be that far-fetched. Deep packet inspection tools have become increasingly sophisticated. DPI products from the likes of Procera Networks and Ellacoya are capable of extracting IP addresses, filenames, and URLs, as well as filtering out BitTorrent traffic for up to 900,000 simultaneous users—all in real time.

P2P traffic blocking can be much more subtle than that, as the recent discovery that Comcast isdisrupting BitTorrent traffic indicates. Using a DPI tool from Sandvine, Comcast at times sends forced TCP reset packets, which have the effect of disrupting P2P transfers in certain situations.

There are difficulties standing in the way of the kind of monitoring envisioned by Lord Triesman, however. As is the case with the kind of video fingerprinting tools envisioned by a new copyright consortium, DPI tools can't tell the difference between legitimate and infringing content. There's also the matter of privacy. Although UK residents have proven themselves willing to accept a large degree of closed-circuit TV monitoring, the thought of having all of their traffic thoroughly checked by their ISPs for copyright infringement is likely to be as appetizing as a pub restroom on a Sunday morning.