There is some very good news for Canadian ISPs on the Copyright war front today. In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that ISPs are not responsible for the content their customers download. CBC News has details here. If the court had made the opposite decision every ISP in Canada would have had to instantly become the content police despite the fact that this would have been next to impossible to accomplish technically.
A little bit of personal opinion now. In recent years parts of our society have been arguing for new laws to apply to the Internet. What these people fail to realize is that the Internet is not a new world. It is simply a faster, more efficient and capable way of communicating. More often than not current laws can be sanely applied to the Internet.
Should the phone company be responsible for it’s customers using the phone network to plan to illegal, Copyright infringing acts like copying thousands of CDs for sale on the street? Of course not. Should the transportation company that is hired to move these CDs between cities be responsible for the Copyright infringement? Of course not. So why would ISPs be responsible? ISPs simply move data packets from network node A to network node B. One of my favourite quotes fits this situation “We’re sysadmins. To us, data is a protocol-overhead.” ISPs do not want to look at your data.
As more and more of the old phone system moves to packet based networks (primarily IP and the Internet) we need to make sure that ISPs have no interest in watching who we are communicating with. Believe me, if ISPs could be held legally liable for what you download online they would watch every bit that leaves your computer.