RISA tries to bully ISPs with bogus take down notices

I heard a report from an Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) that the Recording Industry of South Africa (“RISA”) has adopted a tactic that smacks of its reviled cousin in the United States, the RIAA. RISA has hand delivered notices styled as take down notices in terms of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act demanding that ISPs block access to a website in Russia which is presumably suspected of being involved in music piracy.

I have received a copy of one of these take down notices. I have redacted the ISPs details in case RISA would be inclined to take a special interest in them. I have been given permission to publish this notice by the ISP concerned, though. Essentially RISA is accusing the ISPs of committing copyright infringement or causing their subscribers to access infringing material.

I hope to receive a copy of one of these notices shortly but hHaving spoken to one ISP and to the Internet Service Providers’ Association (“ISPA”), it seems that RISA has either received bad advice from its lawyers or is just taking a chance and filing these take down notices with this demand. The notice appears to be in terms of chapter 11 of the Act which basically provides as follows:

The idea behind this chapter is to provide ISPs with protection from liability if there is activity across their networks that infringes a 3rd party’s rights. The classic case is where an ISP hosts a website with pirated content and it gives the 3rd party an easy way to have that infringing content removed at no or little risk to the ISP. What RISA is doing appears to be an abuse of that mechanism and a play on ISPs’ fear of being sued because their customers may be accessing sites that facilitate piracy. I understand that ISPA has been in contact with its members and regards these notices as both ill-advised and, at the same time, invalid take down notices in terms of this chapter of the Act. ISPs should get in touch with ISPA if they have any queries but the consensus seems to be that there is no need for ISPs to comply with this demand.

It is a pity that RISA is adopting the RIAA’s intimidatory tactics here in South Africa rather than working more constructively with local ISPs to address music piracy. All RISA is doing is alienating the very organisations it must rely on for any broad-based attack on music piracy in South Africa.

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