BSA calls on ISPs to help fight software piracy

An American anti-piracy organization is pointing the finger at Canadian ISPs to help reduce the number of applications that are being traded online illegally.

A problem that has plagued the music industry for years is starting to have an impact on the software business, said Bob Kruger,

vice-president for enforcement at Washington, D.C.-based Business Software Alliance.

Using the Internet to illegally distribute media is still a larger problem for the recording industry and motion picture business, he said, due to the demographic of people that frequent file-sharing sites.

“But that’s somewhat slim comfort, because some of these same people who are learning now that you can use file-sharing networks to get the music you want without paying for it will soon, if not already, go out into the workforce and take that lesson with them,” said Kruger.

Whole applications can be traded online through file-sharing sites, said Kruger. The BSA, which operates in Canada through the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST), would like to see more education informing users that such activity is illegal. It may be up to ISPs to facilitate this, he said.

“We need to be able to rely upon the cooperation of responsible third parties – in some cases, Internet service providers – to provide a mechanism by which we can at least issue a warning of some sort,” he said.

But identifying a user through their ISP is more complicated than simply looking up an IP address, said Tom Copeland, chairman of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, based in Ottawa.

“The only thing we can tell them is who the account holder is for that particular log-in session. . . . Simply identifying our customers does not identify the perpetrator. The account holder is often not the person who is actually taking part in the (illegal) activity,” said Copeland.

He added that the problem becomes more murky when the account holder is a small business and there are numerous users accessing the account.

Software application licence agreements are being written with file-sharing in mind, said Martin Langlois, a partner at Toronto-based law firm Stikeman Elliott. “The problem we have is, very few people actually read the licences.”

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Tariff 22, which states that ISPs cannot be held accountable for violations of copyright law committed by their subscribers. Last March, Federal judge Konrad von Finckenstein denied the Canadian Recording Industry Association’s request to identify 29 file-sharers, stalling attempts to crack down on copyright infringement.

Von Finckenstein’s decision “has created some confusion, frankly, in Canada, about whether it’s illegal to make any of these copyrighted works available for other people to share on P2P networks,” said Kruger. “I think that puts Canada in a bit of a bad position vis-à-vis the rest of the world.”

In the meantime, Kruger said his organization will focus on educating Internet users in North America about software licences and file-sharing.

That may convince some users to stop that activity, said Copeland. “I think any small percentage of change would impact the problem,” he said. “I think at this point, that’s all they can do.”

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