British ISPs must turn in customer details

Court orders 10 Net service providers to hand over data on 150 customers accused of illegally downloading desktop software.

The U.K. High Court has ordered 10 Internet service providers to hand over information of 150 customers accused of illegally sharing and downloading desktop software on the Web.

The illegal file-sharers were identified after a 12-month covert investigation by the Federation Against Software Theft called Operation Tracker.

The federation, a software industry group that fights piracy, said it also suspects that some of the individuals were using their employers' corporate networks for trading the software illegally.

The individuals all use false names but the federation has now secured the court orders that will force the Internet service providers to hand over personal details, including names, addresses and dates of birth, of the 150 individuals.

BT, NTL, Telewest and Tiscali are among the ISPs named in the court order. The presiding judge said there is "an overwhelming case" for ordering such customer details to be released.

The federation will work with the police and Crown Prosecution Service once the individuals have been identified.

John Lovelock, director general at the federation, hailed it as a landmark case for the software industry in the battle against piracy but warned it is only the beginning.

"It's the first case of its kind and it is important because more illegal software?gets traded online now than at car boot sales," Lovelock told Silicon.com.

The federation said it also suspects that some of the individuals were using their employers' corporate networks for trading the software illegally and said the next phase of the operation will target business IP addresses rather than just the individual.

Penalties for illegal communication to the public of copyright works, including software, are punishable in the U.K. by up to two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

The federation's case comes just a week after two illegal downloaders were ordered to pay thousands of pounds in fines to the U.K. music industry.

Andy McCue of Silicon.com reported from London.

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