Scholarly paper on the ineffectiveness of using ISPs to police copyright

Andrew A. Adams (University of Reading) and Ian Brown (Oxford Internet Institute) have just released a new paper on the risks that we face now that the entertainment industry wants to augment DRM with ISP surveillance and termination of accused infringers. They argue that all the evils that arose from ineffective DRM will be magnified by ineffective ISP termination, that the music and film industries will be no richer, and that the public will be at much greater risk of censorship and unfair disconnection from their education, work, health information, families, free speech, and civic engagement via the Internet.

1. It would be trivial for the authors of filesharing software to enable the
encryption of traffic flowing between peer‐to‐peer clients. This would
make it much more difficult for ISPs to identify the transmission of
copyrighted works, even if they undertook highly resource‐intensive and
invasive traffic analysis of customer data flows. Use of network‐level
encryption protocols such as IPSEC would make it difficult to block
specific peer‐to‐protocols. Such protocols can also be masked to avoid

2. The US government spent 25 years trying to prevent the widespread
availability of encryption software, and failed spectacularly.20 Even after
the horrific events of 11 September 2001, it made no serious attempt to
reopen that battle. Cryptographic protection is now the foundation of
Internet security. It is almost inconceivable that governments would
attempt to ban it a second time.

3. "Well‐known" sites that contain infringing content and hence might be
blocked by ISPS are easily duplicated at less well‐known sites – at a speed
that would likely outpace the ability of right holders to keep up. Much
peer‐to‐peer software is already designed to avoid a dependence upon
access to particular servers, following the shutdown of the first‐
generation Napster's indexing servers.

4. As with TPMs , data monitoring software run by ISPs is not in a position to
understand the context and hence legality of the transmission of a given

5. The widespread availability of multi‐gigabyte hard disks and USB data
sticks is making it ever‐easier for users to exchange entire music
collections face‐to‐face. The heaviest restrictions on Internet service
would have little impact on this "sneakernet".

Keep Looking: The Answer to the Machine is Elsewhere

(Thanks, Ian!)