Freeloaders beware: Big Brother is watching

    The recent decision by UK internet service providers (ISPs) to mail out official warning letters to the country's more than six million internet users who regularly illegally download and share copyrighted music should serve as a caution to those dabbling in similar activities in the Middle East.
    Comment, Content management

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    The recent decision by UK internet service providers (ISPs) to mail out official warning letters to the country's more than six million internet users who regularly illegally download and share copyrighted music should serve as a caution to those dabbling in similar activities in the Middle East.

    The development marks a significant step in the UK music industry's fight to stamp out illegal file sharing and boost its economic fortunes, which have been significantly impacted by illegal downloads.

    It also represents the first time rival ISPs - of which there are six major service providers in the UK - have worked together to combat the contentious issue.

    Of far greater interest however is the fact the development suggests UK authorities have stepped up efforts to track users online - particularly those who employ commonly available IP-cloaking devices, as well as those who subscribe to virtual private networks (VPNs).

    Industry sources suggest Western authorities have been targeting VPNs employed by known offenders for some time.



    UK-based sources claim a not insignificant number of those who have received warning letters were more than a little surprised to discover they'd been tracked online, despite employing sophisticated means in a bid to conceal their identities.

    In the Middle East, anecdotal evidence suggests illegal file sharing rates among the region's savviest web users mirror those of the UK and US, even forgiving the lack of broadband penetration in the region.

    Given the regulated nature of internet access and comparative lack of ISPs operating in the Middle East and particularly in the GCC, illegal file sharers should have even greater reason to beware developments in the UK, particularly given the pledge by Gulf authorities to crackdown on copyright infringement across all levels.

    Indeed, precedence has already been set in the UAE. In 2003, two Dubai residents were sentenced to one month prison terms respectively for illegally downloading copyrighted software from the internet and distributing copies for profit.

    Given the predicted rate of development of online content delivery services in the Middle East, led by pioneering efforts such as Abu Dhabi Media Company's Getmo platform, local government authorities have a vested interest in stamping out illegal file sharing networks operating in the region.

    In saying that, content download service providers can play their part in arresting the spread of illegal file sharing by providing local users with affordable access to legitimate content online.

    Aaron Greenwood is the senior group editor of ITP Publishing Group's IT, broadcast & communications magazines.

     

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