Business News Digital Legal

Anti-piracy campaigners propose ‘know-your-customer’ approach to stopping pirates

By | Published on Tuesday 21 July 2020

Piracy / Hacker

Anti-piracy campaigners have proposed various snappily titled tactics for combatting online piracy over the years, including ‘three-strikes’, ‘web-blocking’ and ‘follow-the-money’. Now we can add to that the newly proposed ‘know-your-customer’. Though this one will be opposed more strongly by the internet industry than anything that has gone before.

This new tactic was proposed at a recent webinar hosted by Italian anti-piracy group FAPAV, according to Torrentfreak. The movie industry-centric organisation said that such a system could really help boost anti-piracy efforts to support an audiovisual sector that has been hugely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basically ‘know-you-customer’ would oblige domain registrars and server hosting companies to introduce extra formalities when signing up new clients. The parallel is the financial services sector, where banks – for example – are obliged to undertake certain ID checks when someone opens up an account for the first time, those measures designed to stop things like money laundering and fraud.

Having internet firms similarly check the ID of new customers would make it harder for piracy websites and services to operate anonymously, making the risk of facing legal action for copyright infringement more tangible.

Torrentfreak quotes FAPAV as saying: “This type of approach would allow us to combat anonymity on the web, now a constant of those who work illegally to exploit and earn through the unauthorised use of audiovisual works”.

Of course, internet companies have long opposed any proposals that they actively police their customers or the content those customers upload. Internet service providers have generally only reluctantly participated in three-strike or web-blocking type schemes, most often when forced to do so by law-makers or the courts. And many domain registrars and server hosting companies will only act against individual copyright infringing customers when a court order is issued.

The know-your-customer tactic would also have a much bigger impact on internet companies and their customers. Other schemes require net firms to invest in systems to administer things like three-strikes and web-blocking, and annoy customers who are either accused of infringement or who wish to access piracy sites. But know-your-customer would put up hurdles for every single new client to cross, annoying everyone, and potentially costing each internet firm new business.

So, we can expect plenty of opposition if campaigners start calling for know-your-customer requirements to be added to internet businesses at large.