back to article BT starts threatening music downloaders with internet cut-off

BT, the UK's largest broadband provider, has begun threatening subscribers with disconnection from the internet if it is told they are sharing copyright music over peer-to-peer networks, The Register has learned. The firm recently sent an email to one of its four million retail broadband customers, who asked not to be named, …


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  1. Niall Simpson

    Asked not to be named....

    Well obviously! If I was caught downloading a Girls Aloud song I'd be pretty embarrassed too!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Girls Aloud???

    Can you imagine the scene down the pub: "Well, lads, I got disconnected from BT's broadband today."

    "Jaysus, what for? Movies? Warez? Porn?"

    "Err, no, actually, it was Girls Aloud."

    *Barely suppressed snorts of derision*

    But then I suspect that anyone sharing Girls Aloud would be too young to be in a pub...

  3. Dan White


    Way to lose even more customers BT...

    First the Phorm Phuck up, now this. Makes me pleased to think that I've actively prevented two households from switching to BT recently, by virtue of educating them as to the level of "service" they can expect. I've also managed to get my parents to switch *from* BT, which is a result as they normally have the inertia of a supertanker in treacle :-)

  4. Ed


    Was the user illegally sharing music?

  5. Mike Street


    So BT's customers have to comply with the law, but BT doesn't (i.e. Phorm)?

    Maybe BT customers should send a similarly-worded letter to them, threatening disconnection without compensation.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <no title>

    Even if the copyright argument is accepted, warning folk off one at a time is going to have as much effect as King Canute has on the tide. Besides if folk want to share music collections with friends, they don't need an Internet to do so.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Obligatory geek here

    "Remove any P2P filesharing software from any computer(s) that connect to your BT internet service."

    That's a bit strong, some of us use them for legitimate means (linux and other large free or open source downloads) as well as the odd... erm ... preview of commercial material.

  8. Mark

    This is an infringement of the copyright in those sound recordings.

    However, if someone has already GOT the CD, they have a license to listen to the music.

    That's what they keep telling us.

    Tell you what, BPI, I will pass on all the profits I receive to you. And I'll give another 10% to charity out of my own pocket.

    Can't say fairer than that.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    All P2P illegal eh?

    "Remove any P2P filesharing software from any computer(s) that connect to your BT internet service."

    Got to love these idiots.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    vote with your feet and leave BT. They're shite anyway.

  11. richard

    What about FON users?

    ... especially since BT bundled FON with many of their routers by default. Surely a FON user could hop onto any of the nodes listed here : and torrent away.

  12. Chronos Silver badge

    Oh, this is bloody rich!

    "You must not infringe the rights of others, including the right of privacy and copyright"

    BT would do well to study their own T&Cs. Phorm, anyone? We'll just accuse you of copyright infringement and then, if you have a web site, turn around and make a copy of your copyrighted content for our own commercial gain against your wishes. We'll also invade your privacy by inspecting every http request you make. We're allowed to do this because we're BT and we're above the law you little people have to abide by.

    Talk about kettles and pots, not to mention that there are many legitimate uses for P2P. Okay, I know most instances are being put to illegitimate uses and I'm in full agreement that this is against the law, but that does not alter the truth. I mean, Blizzard uses P2P tech to distribute patches (since my son is an avid WoW player, believe me, I know. It wanted holes in my firewall. It didn't get them and got disabled) which is quite legitimate. I suppose we're going to have snoops ripping these packets to shreds to look for evidence of infringement now?

    People in glass layer 7 packet inspection houses should not throw accusatory stones.

  13. Chris Simmons

    Is filesharing software... illegal?


    1. Remove any P2P filesharing software from any computer(s)


    I use filesharing software for perfectly legitimate reasons - such as sharing documents with family and friends that are too large for email attachments. It strikes me that the "recommendations" are designed to scare the unknowing into complying with the usual mafia actions we read about with the MPAA and RIAA.

  14. bertie bassett
    Paris Hilton

    If only I was dumb enough to be a BT Broadband customer..

    "Copyright law provides that sound recordings cannot be communicated to the public without permission"..

    I'd love the opportunity to test in a court of law whether

    1) having a file in a bit-torrent share folder is 'communication to the public'

    2) How they can prove it was me that 'did the crime' - perhaps it was one of those evil hackers that are out their doing nasty things - what about "drve by surfers" or even heven help us a guest FON user..

    Oh hang on - I might get nicked by the thought police - pre-cog anyone?

    Paris cos she'd get my minority report...

  15. shyted

    A policy well thought out as usual

    Are ISPs really going to have the balls to go through with this if its true that 60% of people download music thats a lot of revenue to lose, and will it mean that once disconnected you can never have internet again, or will it just be a case of switching ISPs.

    This will work about as well as the law suits in the states, which lets face it have not proved to be any deterrent for downloading and in most cases have just helped publicize p2p. BT are making far to many assumptions about the adsl account holders knowledge of p2p and IT in general. Fair enough some will be fully aware of what is happening on there broadband connection, but there are a awful lot of people who are genuinely clueless. As for secure wireless networks good luck with that if its not a legal requirement (yet), and will perhaps make a defense in court. When they've made it idiot and hack proof I'll look forward to a bright future that has no spam, viruses, trojans, ddos or botnets to worry about

    What the media industries and ISPs need to do is launch legal unlimited p2p, or price online distribution of music and video media more attractively.

    I'd have no problem with a legal Oink or Napster type service with no DRM, but what are the chances of that.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused

    we have one story that says BT are sending out letters to people about file sharing

    And another story about legal P2P file sharing by the end of the year by paying your ISP (BT Perhaps) a premuim for what you are essentially getting a letter about now

    Talk about pissing off your customer

  17. Anonymous Coward

    well I wish they would cut me off

    Because I am trying to get out of my contract with them and avoid having to pay the outstanding balance in full.

    So this is the way to do it, huh?

    Thanks for the tip.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Not impressed with the Phorm F%^Kup BT!

    Not impressed with the thought that BT customers are being threaten on the word of the BPI who may have just got the IP address mixed up or the customers computer may have been compromised or their WIFI connection; or they have a errant teeenager!

    Who the hell died and made them Stalin!

    The real issue for the BPI is to address their members outdated business model which actively encourages tenagers (who are the main downloaders of Girls Aloud) to infringe copyright.

    Come on music industry get real and adapt your failing business model and embrace the people not actively be seen as a secret Stalinist police force!

    Paris because she would never download her own music!

  19. Chris Simmons

    @Greg Fleming


    Because I am trying to get out of my contract with them and avoid having to pay the outstanding balance in full.

    So this is the way to do it, huh?

    Thanks for the tip.


    Sorry Greg, but in TFA, BT were quoted thus:

    "Sorry, but we're obliged to point out that further similar problems may have to lead to the termination of your account, as such activity contravenes BT's Acceptable Use Policy. Please note that, should your account be closed as a result of contravention of BT's Acceptable Use Policy, you will still have to pay any sums owing under the terms of your contract with us."

  20. Caustic Soda
    Paris Hilton

    Who at BT gets the letter?

    When I binned BT a few years back, they were offering all their users access to huge amounts of copyrighted music through their Usenet servers.

    Who at BT gets to write to themselves in these sorts of circumstances?

    Paris, cos there isn't one of the gorgeous redhead in GA.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    "if it is TOLD they are sharing"

    Shouldn't it be required to CHECK FIRST (and conclusively and irrefutably PROVE) that they are sharing something ... and, indeed, something that's actually illegal to share ... BEFORE taking any such action ?

    A person isn't automatically guilty just because somebody SAYS they have done something.

  22. Brian Whittle

    least she does not live in the USA

    in the states the RIAA would have been trying to screw her totaly so its better than that.

    Oh and as said there are legal uses for P2P I for one downloaded UBD as a torrent these ways its a good way of reducing server costs for open source and such

  23. frymaster

    removing P2P

    it's only "recommended" you remove filesharing apps, and if we assume the clueless demographic, that makes the most sense. The geek demographic can presumably remove the copyrighted stuff without going to that extreme (or will, more probably, simple switch ISP :P )

    @bertie bassett:

    This is why BPI and ISPs are going down this route. If the BPI were to sue people they'd need to prove those things in a court of law. You don't need to a court of law for an ISP to kick someone off for AUP violation. This would be a concern if there weren't so many ISPs :) ( it actually may be a concern for me, coz I'm on cable, but I'll burn that bridge when I come to it)

  24. Claire Rand


    of course simply identifying the filename means _nothing_ if i decide to put a jog image onto a filesharing network, a picture of my garden say, that is called "" where xxx is a song title. does this prove anything, other than my inability to pick helpful filenames?

    now if the user is filesharing, I'd take this as a sign to move over to something that works over TOR or similar, but if not personally I'd put a letter, recorded delivery, to the head office requesting to see the actual evidence, pointing out I'd need to know if the contents of the file were in fact subject to copyright.

    and if they wrote back to say they did identify the file as copyright I'd laugh, or if they identified it correctly I'd enquire as to why they had _illegally_ intercepted a transmission.

    perfectly simple to start using spoof file names, of course this does little for honey pot sites but for BT intercepts..

    don't agree with copyright infringment as such, but agree with the BPI even less

  25. john.w

    You will be very unlucky to get caught twice let alone three times

    If the BPI are simply picking an IP address at random, it can't be methodical because there are millions sharing, then the chances of finding the same user sharing again are tinny, dynamic IP address anyone?

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Thanks, Chris

    I'm afraid, I'M obliged to point out to them:

    If they cut me off (please please) then they ain't getting a fucking cent out of me.

    I don't pay for services I can't get. By definition forcing money out of people on false pretences (i.e the pretence of providing a service) that'll be called extortion.

    What a load of bollocks.

  27. Paul Hatch

    They'll never win

    As the BPI are not getting your details and the ISP is dealing with the matter internally, they are committing commercial suicide. As pointed out, hardcore sharers can block detection and casual downloaders if cut off will just move to another ISP by which time they will have wised up and gen up on how not to get caught. The only loser being the ISP that cooperates who will lose business both departing customers and others avoiding them.

    As Ive mentioned before in a previous thread, it is futile trying to hit p2p when people at work/school/college can pass around 1TB HDs stuffed full of music or burning MP3 DVDs. Putting it in context, when the majors were having kittens over Napster, when it closed it only had 3-4TB and much of that was duplicates.

    Dont know why I just thought about it but while a kid in the 70s my parents ran a pub. One day some busybody from either the BPI or Performing Rights Soc came in asking if my mum had a license to play music from the radio/cassette in public. She simply picked up the radio from behind the bar, moved it to the cellar next door, turned up the volume and left the door open. The radio was now being played in private, the fact it could be heard in public was incidental. In all the device had moved little more than 3ft. He gave up and walked off :-)

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Not a proof

    BPI is not be be trusted and any one with a computer can generate a text file with whatever number they want on it. BPI have NOTHiNG.

    BPI need hard eveidences (they clearly don;t have it) and on top of that they need permission to INVADE a private computer like that. The only evidences that can be accpeted must be search for and produce by the POLICE. BPI have not rights to do is own justice.

    If not convicted in COURT, BT have no legal right to cut off a custumer on FLASE proof summited by a shady organisation that care only about the pokets of shareolder.

    BT as lost all credibility. It is now a pathetic puppet in the end of BPI.

  29. Alfazed

    silly folk swimmin against the tide.

    Must still be looking for technical salvation for an industry full of crap.

    OK - So some older or dumb customers will lose their broadband connection, and will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief and will go buy some stamps.

    Others will continue to circulate illicit DVDs and CDs just like any other contraband items or illegal substances, and when using P2P will use encryption, or a social network like Bebo et al (which aren't P2P networks).

    If they listened to their own marketing gurus, these uptight record industry directors would accept that the age group they are now going to piss off with this fascist tactic is not only ITC savvy to at least GCSE standard, but are also the ripest fruits of the mass consumer market.

    They are not going to win them back into buying 16 rubbish tracks and just one that's half decent on a CD or album.

    Seriously, I wonder why my kids aren't buying Girls Aloud or any other such trashy pop shite ? The record industry moguls are hoping to win back this mass market which incidentally - downloads loadsa Grime, Drum n Bass, Ragga, and many other toons in fact, almost anything else media wise that you can think of, which the recording industries don't actually produce or own the copyright of. Or ever will hopefully.

    Stoopid fuckedup fat old ugly rich twats. This is what happens when you take all those fucking drugs and marry carpet bagging tramps and live in palatial pads in wuwal Engwand.

    These suckers should work for charity and distribute all their wealth amongst those poor homeless Brits who haven't even tried broadband yet.


  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Three Strikes?

    I'm not sure how they would successfully enforce a "three strikes" scheme. Surely, if the ISP didn't want to lose custom, they could just deny any correlation between alleged violations, i.e. every complaint made by the BPI is matched to a "first offender". The ISP doesn't have to give details on the user without a court order, so how would the BPI know otherwise?

  31. Anonymous Coward


    or megaupload, or yousendit, or any other multitude of file hosting sites! dammit people, P2P is so last year! :P

  32. Fred

    ...and then?

    would do you guys think about the legality to all of this and does the BPI actually have authority to cut the broadband?

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Standard of evidence?

    Surely the evidence is a bit weak? They make claims about software, files and IPs but exactly how solid is this without corroboration by other means?

    After all, I could easily generate a huge amount of 'evidence' claiming various P2P packages had been sharing common files (or just one, which I claimed the copyright on) from within the IP range used for BT's residential ADSL services.

    How far would they go on the basis of such evidence?

    I'm interested to know where the BPI stand having communicated unsubstantiated allegations to a third party, especially as they seem to be to the detriment of the individual named.

    I'd also be interested to know how exactly they'd stand if they used this information to cancel an account without any proper evidence?

    Whatever happens the only two outcomes that seem guaranteed are a PR own-goal for the BPI and ISPs, and lawyers making money from the actions that will surely result.

  34. Mycho Silver badge

    Remove all p2p filesharing software

    Does that include the BBC iplayer?

  35. night troll

    To BT planks....

    ...."Remove any P2P filesharing software from any computer(s) that connect to your BT internet service."

    Does that include BBC iPlayer?

  36. Someone

    Has anyone told the BBC?

    When you install the BBC’s iPlayer, it puts up a very clear warning.

    “Please read carefully the Software Information

    BBC iPlayer Download Manager users Kontiki peer-to-peer technology that requires you to both download and upload files from the internet in order to watch programmes.”

    One of the BBC iPlayer help pages drives home the message that this is P2P filesharing software.

    I can only conclude that the BPI recommend the removal of the BBC’s iPlayer.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it just me....

    ...or would a filename be absolutely no proof of the existence of copyright material being shared? Calling a file RipOffGirlsAloudWailing.mp3 does not make it so.

    A file name is independent of the file contents - only the filetype is important in some OEs.

    You can call a Girls Aloud track what you want but it still doesn't make it music.

  38. Ben

    Could it really be a good thing?

    Not a very popular opinion, but I think this might be a good thing. A good proportion of copyright infringement is done by "da youth" who aren't evil or malicious but simply sharing and getting a few things for free, which is a good thing when you have little to no disposable income.

    These warnings would remove some of the anonymity provided by the internet (at least the perceived anonymity) which is the principle reason for breaking the law. It's not unreasonable for BPI and the people they represent to protect their interest, and warning people that they may be in breach of the law, seems fair and financially good idea for the BPI as going to court isn't cheap and they are unlikely to take anyone to court who could afford their over evaluated losses.

    Dangers arise from false accusations, but with multiple warnings that's some what reduced as long as people who's lax security (their own doing or their ISP home setup) is corrected.

    At the end of the day, if your torrenting copyrighted material you are breaking the law. Of course the police aren't going to check up on you, but if the copyright holder choose to, then expect your warning.

    Let BPI waste their time hunting down teenagers and getting ISP to dispatch warning letter. Their vain hopes that they can transmute pirate copies into real sales, and if they can stop piracy in an instant and fail to see the massive spike in retail sales, they might just look at other business models. Right now it easier to blame the devil than themselves.

  39. Digi421
    IT Angle


    ...downloading stuff isn't illegal, it's illegal to upload ("offer") stuff. So if you use P2P and can set your client's upload to zero, you are not offering anything illegal. Of course that's entirely against the mechanics (and spirit) of P2P, but nevertheless...

    I'd bin BT but here I have alternative :(

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Girls To fekin loud

    "a song by Girls aloud"




    (whoops wet myself)

    Funny how Radiohead made so much more with a "pay what you like" policy.

    (if you aint heard "in rainbows" yet, your already dead.......)

    ph cause you could tell her to do anything and then say what a good idea she'd had.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This has been happening for at least 12 months! Why has it taken so long to come to light???

    oh, wait - I'll tell you why.

    The "Customer Security Team", aka the Abuse Dept, is hugely under funded and supported. I shall pause for a moment as you all take a deep breath of astonishment.


    "Eddie Mackay" (Hi, Eddie, long time no speak. When did you get permission to change your name? Or have El Reg been nice to you?) is the only person in BT who deals with BPI matters.

    One person. One. And he's not even employed by BT, but by an agency who pay him less than you'd get for flipping non-identifiable meat at Macdonalds.

    Filesharers of the BT world - don't panic! Eddie must get hundreds of such reports per month but, due to inefficiency, RUBBISH computer systems* and a focus on CS rather than the actual issues which the BT Abuse team should be dealing with (I was chastised for not apologising, to a blatant spammer, for upsetting him. Don't even get me started on the apology thing - BT is a "sorry" company, and has been for at least three years), he can only deal with 20 or so per week.

    So relax.


    * how do they tie a dynamic IP to a customer? They have script(s) written by some student in the 1990's which untars a zipped logfile of DHCP assignations, then greps through them to find out which CLI had which IP address at which time.

    Generally, the team search through a 24 hour period. Frequent error messages I've seen indicate that each tarball covers a 1 hour period... and contains DHCP changes for each and every customer in the country who connected/disconnected within that period. With the amount of customers they have, that's a lot of changes. And I have it on good authority that the computer responsible for running this script is inthe P2, or less, range.

    This would be barely workable in a small ISP, or perhaps an internal network, but in the biggest ISP in the country? Each search takes approximately 30 minutes. When the machine is working, which it very often isn't. Possibly cos the cleaners unplugged it so they could use their hoover.

    I kid you not.

    Eddie can do about 10 "BPI complaints" per day, at a guess. So twenty is possibly a bit low. 40 per week? Maybe?


    Why am I disclosing all of this? Because I'm still LIVID at the way they treated me and my colleagues as employees of Manpower.

    Also because they didn't have the gumption to get me to sign an NDA.

  42. Robert A. Rosenberg

    Identifying who has an IPN

    If each Tarball has one hour of DHCP info, you first scan the one which covers the hour of the alleged offense (looking for an assign or unassign record). If an assign is before the reported time (with no unassign before that time) or the unassign is after the time, you have your user. If the IPN does not list the IPN, you scan the prior hour for an assign and the next hour for an unassign. I would assume that a 2 or 3 hour span would contain either an assign or unassign for that IPN.

    As to proof of what file is being shared, the monitoring organization should legally be required to download a FULL copy of the file as proof of its contents. All IPNs listed during that capture are thus proven to be downloading (and since P2P requires uploading) and serving the file. Since the monitoring organization supposedly has permission to download the file, they are not subject to any claim of illegality DURING the download period but a claim of entrapment can be made if they were the one who created the initial .torrent file on the server OR if they do not shut down their connection once they have the full down load and shift into 100% Seeding mode (Seeding while download is OK since there is no way to prevent distribution of already downloaded pieces while you complete the download).

  43. Big Pete

    Dear BT

    Thank you for the warning letter re: fle sharing, I thought i'd reply to inform you that you'll have no more problems regarding my file sharing, as i've signed up for a VPN tail end in a foreign country.

    Best regards

    Long John Pete.

  44. PH

    @ AC hahahah

    Interesting to hear how they still treat/resource their staff.

    Back round about 1998 I remember there was a wonderful site at the address www.ihateBT.?? - think it might have been Anyway, the site was set up by a former BT engineer who wrote he'd been unfairly dismissed for "merely asking" if it were possible to reverse engineer some technology BT had. His, ahem, let's be careful here, "allegations" about the company and, in particular, the BT Security department and their antics when phone-tapping their own staff made for interesting reading.

    As a customer, I dropped BT years ago. I've blocked out the memories of the many things they did to me but I still have a Pavlovian gag-reaction when I see the logo. So good to hear they're still on form. I'm astonished they've still got the market share they have.

    Who's up for going round with some pitchforks and torches?

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phorm and BT is worse

    There they take your work, and replace the revenue stream you may get from the adverts with their own. That is piracy, and passing off. They also subvert security, by having a tap, and that can include credit card details, and with the recent SSL weak key problem, a lot of that data could now be accessible.

    They are making money off the copyrighted work of others, and making security on the web a nightmare.

    I have been blocking btcentralplus for a while now, but the reverse lookups can slow the system down a bit for other users. So, time to work out the IP blocks they are using.

    Their nameservers are in the 217.33 to 27.35 range, BT seems to kick in at around 217.32 and they seem to go up to 217.47 ( we end up in Africa by 217.77 :) ).

    Well let's see what happens if the range 217.32 to 217.47 gets blocked.

    They have some in the 193.113 range for, would be rude to not include the corporate folks as well, seems just to be 193.113 there.

    Good a lot nippier.

    Deny from 217.32 217.33 217.34 217.35 217.36

    Deny from 217.37 217.38 217.39 217.40 217.41 217.42

    Deny from 193.113

    It wouldn't surprise me if the bittorrents didn't start doing some blocking as well, some users ISPs are pretty bad for them to have dealings with. Might just clear a lot of problems up, and reduce the number of copyright infringements. Then the kids can get back to pestering mum and dad for pocket money to buy the latest pop music travesties.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Sounds a bit flimsy to me

    Would like to see this challenged in court.

    "They have script(s) written by some student in the 1990's which untars a zipped logfile of DHCP assignations, then greps through them to find out which CLI had which IP address at which time."

    I'm assuming the time of the infraction is supplied to BT by the BPI.

    How do they guarantee the accuracy of the time stamp they provide?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sounds pretty fair to me, BPI tells BT of a customer breaking their acceptable use policy. These rules are pretty well laid out when you sign up. BT tells customer off and gives them a get out clause in case they are daft enough to have an unsecured connection.

    No one is being sued or taken to court, no 'proof' is required.

    What's all the fuss about?

  48. Mycho Silver badge

    @BT is a "sorry" company

    Absolutely. One of their golden rules of customer care is "apologise when possible, not when necessary"

    Sadly "Fix the damn problem" isn't on the list.

  49. Rob Cooper

    Good Reason to Bin BT

    This is just wrong on so many levels.. They have no proof, working on "reports" from an untrsuted resource that are going to exploit this for all they can..

    I have a good mind now to go home, start a petition website, then create 1GB of crap sound files, named with the latest tunes from the crappy pop world and seed on torrent like there is no tomorrow.

    Every BT user should then propagate these files and make BY destroy themselves!


  50. Paolo
    Paris Hilton

    Shades of grey

    "AFAIK...downloading stuff isn't illegal, it's illegal to upload ("offer") stuff."

    Actually it's even less clear than that - courts in america are arguing back and forth over whether "making available" is the enough to count as copyright infringement.


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