ISPs including The WELL and EarthLink Network and online rights groups contend that the SPA, a Washington-based software industry organization, is trying to place liability for electronic piracy on ISP shoulders.
Earlier this year, the SPA kicked off its campaign by filing lawsuits against three providers who were allegedly ignoring illegally copied software, serial numbers, and other proprietary software hacks posted onto their systems by subscribers. At the same time, the SPA asked providers to sign and return an ISP "code of conduct." The informal contract and the lawsuits drew enough criticism that the SPA decided to revamp its campaign.
New SPA policy statements including an effort to get ISPs to monitor their systems have been posted, but coalition members aren't satisfied with the change.
"They've tried to make the responsibility of monitoring users a little less," said Shabbir Safdar, cofounder of the Voters Telecommunications Watch. "But it still turns ISPs into a copyright court; it makes them arbiters when [the decision] belongs in the judicial arena."
"If someone disagrees with what one of my users says, they should take it up with them directly," wrote Alexis Rosen, owner of Public Access Networks, in an open letter sent to SPA antipiracy campaign director Peter Beruk. "It's often near impossible for me to evaluate copyright claims."
The SPA argues on behalf of over 1,200 software companies who can lose thousands of dollars per day if their software is illegally posted to a Web site for downloading. The risk and speed of such losses have prompted the SPA to ask ISPs to be more proactive in ferreting out potential piracy.
VTW's Safdar and other coalition members support the need to stamp out software piracy but argue that the SPA has not taken the rights of online providers into account. The members intend to release their own plan by February 15.
"The common ground is that we're very concerned with software piracy and we respect the right of copyright holders," said Scott Brower, executive director of Electronic Frontiers Florida. "We would like to work with the SPA to reach an agreement."