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ISPs consider naming those guilty of online piracy

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UK ISPs are considering assisting a crackdown on online copyright infringement by providing rights holders with the identity and contact details of customers engaged in illegal file-swapping activity.

Scottish telco Thus has admitted it will look at putting rights holders or complainants in contact with customers guilty of online piracy. The ISP said the 'solution' wouldn' breach UK data protection principles and is hoping to discuss the issue at an industry level.

'ISPs should be looking at the implications of providing rights holders with customer contact details,' said a spokeswoman at Thus.

UK ISP AOL said that it was 'wholeheartedly' behind protecting copyrighted material and that a balance should be sought between ISPs and rights holders.

At the end of last year, a US court rejected the music industry's efforts to force ISPs to identify file-swappers without a judge's consent. The decision stated that copyright law prevented the Recording Industry Association of America from sending out subpoenas asking ISPs for the identity of customers involved in copyright infringement.

Wayne Rosso, head of P2P United, the association of peer-to-peer networks, said, 'It's a complete breach of privacy. I'm shocked anyone in the EU would allow this to happen.'

Tiscali is opposed to putting rights holders in contact with customers. The service provider said it would only release customer identities when a court order had been obtained by the rights holder. 'We'll co-operate with anyone who says their copyright has been breached, but they must go through the proper channels,' said a spokeswoman.

The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA), which hosted a parliamentary forum on P2P technology on Tuesday, stressed that ISPs are 'mere conduits' for information and shouldn't be held liable for illegal activity on their servers.