ISPs could easily be tricked into thinking innocent internet users had fallen foul of copyright rules, according to US researchers.
A group at the University of Washington found that US copyright infringement notices can easily be spoofed. And with the bulk of music, movies and other copyrighted materials illegally downloaded by New Zealanders being sourced from the US, these findings could potentially call the validity of US based copyright infringement accusations into question under the Copyright Amendment Act which is set to go live on February 28.
Under the Act, copyright infringement complaints issued to New Zealand ISPs will result in a three tier warning system that will see the internet connections of repeat offenders ultimately disabled.
Michael Piatek, Tadayoshi Kohno, Arvind Krishnamurthy, researchers from the University of Washington's Department of Computer Science & Engineering investigated the monitoring and enforcement processes for file sharing networks and found that any internet user could potentially be accused of copyright infringement, regardless of their innocence.
Arvind and fellow researchers profiled the copyright enforcement methods used to police the popular peer to peer file sharing services such as BitTorrent, and found they were able to generate hundreds of infringement notices for computers at the University of Washington that had never downloaded any copyrighted content.
Piatek's team were also able to generate complaints for several printers and a wireless access point, all of which were incapable of performing illegal downloads, demonstrating that innocent internet users could easily fall victim to malicious copyright infringement accusations under the copyright amendment act.
The argument of existing detractors of the Act's lack of any penalties for perpetrators of malicious infringement complaints is expected to be further bolstered by these findings given the act also lacks any mechanism for checking the validity of copyright infringement complaints.
More information on the Washington University findings can be found here
Pat Pilcher is employed by Telecom New Zealand and his views are not necessarily those of his employer.