Anyone who has been paying attention to the War on Piracy will have noticed that the emphasis has shifted from the user to the internet service provider. As content owners discovered that attempts to enforce their rights against users backfired and/or had no noticeable effect, they began returning to the strategy of trying to make the service providers liable for the infringement committed by their customers.
The first barrage in the war took place when content owners managed to get Irish ISP Eircom to promise that it would disconnect repeat offenders. Then an Australian copyright conglomerate (representing several U.S. content giants) sued iiNet for copyright infringement incurred by its customers, and we should get a ruling next week.
These lawsuits however are only a small part of the global strategy. As it has been repeatedly posted here and elsewhere, the end-game for the content providers is of course to make ISPs liable through the inclusion of three-strikes clauses into copyright law. New Zealand and France have attempted to do just that with mixed results, and in the UK we are currently experiencing a similar threat through the Digital Economy Bill. But it is in ACTA where the final battle will take place. The inclusion of three-strikes provisions in a wide-ranging bilateral agreement between some of the most developed countries in the world will almost undoubtedly spell the end of intermediary indemnity, and more importantly, it might well spell the end of ISPs as we know them.
Update: And to complicate things even more, Virgin Media says that it will use deep-packet inspection software to monitor potential infringing material.