That P2P snitch may be a neighbour not a cop

If you are unwise enough to trade illegal material through peer-to-peer networks, the person who dobs you in may be a fellow user rather than a government official.

If you are unwise enough to trade illegal material through peer-to-peer networks, the person who dobs you in may be a fellow user rather than a government official.

Keith Manch, general manager gaming and censorship at the Department of Internal Affairs, says “approximately 95%” of the alleged offences on P2P were not detected in the first instance by the Censorship Compliance Unit but reported by “external sources”, including other government departments, overseas agencies and members of the public.

This makes the tactic explored by P2P users of denying the DIA “authority” to access their computers under the “anti-hacking” provisions of the Crimes Act passed last year a weapon of doubtful effect. However, Manch says the DIA unit must check for itself that the material in question is likely to be objectionable and is being offered by an New Zealand user, as alleged.

Manch says there have been, to date, no unsuccessful prosecutions for trading illegal material via peer-to-peer (P2P) links. However, in five of the 12 cases investigated as at December last year, “charges were not laid because inspectors issued warnings to the offenders”.

Computerworld requested the clarification on prosecution numbers and investigatory procedures because of another media report, which drew on our story. It implied, to Manch's reading, that there had been 111 completed investigations of P2P trading and only two successful prosecutions with another five in train. DIA refuted that and copied the letter to us. The department continues to progress through the rest of the 111 investigations, Manch says.

He also confirms previous indications that very little of the material that is the subject of online prosecutions is ever submitted to the official censors, the Office of Film and Literature Classification or OFLC, for a formal ruling on its “objectionable” status.

“If [the defendant] disputes that the material is objectionable, the court refers it to the OFLC for classification. To date, very few offenders have chosen to defend the charges on any grounds. Neither of the people convicted as a result of P2P activity defended the charges.”

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