Against the backdrop of Comcast's blocking of the popular peer-to-peer program BitTorrent, a Net neutrality bill in Congress and a Hollywood call for Internet service providers to stop illegal file-sharing, comes this news from Japan: Service providers are set to block Internet service to heavy users of peer-to-peer software.
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reports that Japan's four major ISP organizations plan to form a working group with copyright groups representing authors, composers, publishers and software developers to establish guidelines for disconnecting users who download from Winny and other popular P2P programs.
Under the agreement, copyright organizations would identify the IP addresses of users who are downloading their content and provide the information to the ISPs. The providers would then send a warning e-mail. If the downloading continued, the ISP would disconnect the user temporarily, or even cancel the account entirely.
No Privacy Concerns
It is a bold move that ISPs have been cautious about making thus far. Two years ago, a Japanese ISP proposed cutting off users detected using Winny and other P2P software, but backed off after Japan's Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry regarded that as illegal Internet snooping.
The current approach is different, says technology blogger George Ou, because copyright holders merely need to download the P2P system, search for their content and obtain a list of IP addresses serving the content.
"This method doesn't involve any of that politically dreaded DPI (deep-packet inspection)," Ou wrote. Indeed, it is now impossible for ISPs to examine the content of P2P transfers, since the latest programs are "already fully encrypted at both the protocol and data level," according to Ou, an outspoken opponent of Net-neutrality legislation.
Bandwidth Problem Solved
If content owners lurk as users on the systems, searching for and downloading their content, they automatically get a list of IP addresses that provided the content. "There's no decryption, key cracking, or deep-packet inspection going on here," Ou said.
Moreover, according to Ou, the practice will substantially cut ISPs' bandwidth costs. He cited data from Haruka Saito, a telecom policy counselor with the Japanese Embassy, who said that 10 percent of Japanese users -- those who run P2P -- consume 75 percent of the country's bandwidth resources. More shockingly, 1 percent of Japan's users consume 63 percent of all capacity on the Internet.
"It's no wonder the ISPs in Japan want a solution that cuts off the most egregious illegal file traders, who also happen to be the biggest bandwidth hogs," Ou said.
Whatever the network management advantages, it's clear the ISPs made this move under pressure from Japanese copyright holders. In the United States, the motion-picture industry has been calling on ISPs to start cutting off pirates at the network level. While Verizon has said it doesn't plan to "police" its users, other ISPs have indicated a willingness to work with copyright holders. The Japanese decision may open the door for more aggressive control in the United States and Europe.