DIA investigates 111 P2P users, prosecutes two

A Computerworld Official Information Act request shows only two prosecutions have resulted from Department of Internal Affairs investigations into more than 100 peer-to-peer users.

A Computerworld Official Information Act (OIA) request shows only two prosecutions have resulted from Department of Internal Affairs investigations into more than 100 peer-to-peer users.

Department censorship inspectors have turned their attention earnestly to peer-to-peer trading channels, but to date seem to be having little success.

The OIA request earlier this month showed that while 111 users of P2P services have been “investigated”, there have only been two prosecutions, with another five cases are being readied for court.

The department does not specify to what degree of “investigation” the unsuccessful cases proceeded.

Department attention to P2P channels, such as Morpheus and Kazaa, could signal to IT managers a need to be more assiduous in policing what their employees do at work. IRC channels, a longer-established porn trading medium, are sectioned by subject, and inspectors concentrate on those where illegal material is traded.

While an employee is unlikely to blatantly join a channel with an explicit title from their work machine, P2P services, by contrast, are more general with legal and illegal porn mixed in with mainstream pictures and audio and video files.

Employees committing a mere misdemeanour, such as seeking tracks from the latest Dido album or a Lord of the Rings trailer, may find a department porn inspector looking over their shoulder.

Trading of pirated music and video tracks is regarded as a serious matter by the film and music industries, which have begun to threaten ISPs with legal action.

The two successful P2P prosecutions to date are for trading, not merely possessing, objectionable material. Computerworld asked the department whether the cases had brought any delicate legal argument, since “supply” of a file on P2P services is typically automatic on the consumer’s (or inspector’s) clicking on the file icon. Most IRC trades, by contrast, have been the result of an online conversation where the owner of the file is specifically requested to send it and has to take a physical action to do so.

Department censorship compliance head Keith Manch says that there has been no legal argument to date on P2P files, as both offenders pleaded guilty. Only one of the offences, however, is under the section “involving knowledge”, suggesting that the other trader may have been unaware that the image “supplied” was illegal.

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