The Software Publishers Association (SPA), settled its third and last copyright infringement case last week and hastily backed down from its stated position that ISPs should police their sites for illegal material.
Earlier in the year, the organisation told PC Week that ISPs had "to take responsibility for the content kept on their servers in the light of piracy against clients such as Adobe. The SPA issued lawsuits against three companies claiming they had allowed individuals to post illegal software on their servers. A spokesman said at the time that warnings had been sent to the offending ISPs asking them to remove the software, but they were ignored.
The spokesman said "It is not acceptable that ISPs allow individuals to post pirated data on their servers. Nor is it acceptable for them to allow those same individuals to post directions or instructions for those illegal files."
In October the SPA started the Internet Anti-Piracy Campaign which was setup to reduce software piracy by garnering support from middlemen like the service providers. It asked service providers to follow a "code of conduct" to demonstrate a willingness to fight illegal software. But, like UK providers, the service providers in the US believe they have the same "common carrier status" as the telephone companies and refuse to "police" their servers for law breakers.
But the SPA has been forced to step off its soap box and soften its line due to angry response from the US Internet service provider's community.
"It's not surprising," said Larry Bloch, managing director of Net Benefit, an ISP in London, "If we as a company were required to look through all our clients' content I'd be very concerned. We would lose our common carrier status and the task is simply unrealistic."
The SPA's campaign director Peter Beruk would not comment on criticisms of the SPA's methods for dealing with piracy, but did say "there is a lot of money lost every year due to software piracy. We will be working closely with our customers to try and resolve this issue in due course."
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