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21 FEBRUARY 2019 / INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

Protecting your venue from DMCA complaints

As long as the internet has been around, there have been those who look to take advantage of it for their own gain through illegal methods.

The intricate and therefore hard to manage infrastructure of the web has been causing copyright headaches for almost everyone who creates content. Whether that’s music, games, films or photography.

Whilst the likes of Spotify and Apple Music have made huge strides in reducing the illegal downloading of music, when it comes to films and games there is still a huge market for illegal downloading/streaming.

The technical term for this activity is Peer-to-Peer (P2P) downloading and comes with heavy penalties across the world including jail time and hefty fines. And, across the globe there are numerous national and multi-national agencies looking to clamp down on this activity.

For businesses who offer customers internet access, the risk of those customers using the network for P2P downloading can become a real concern if that access isn’t set up and managed properly.

When sharing isn’t caring.

Beambox was recently contacted by a café in California that has been sent numerous DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notices pursuing legal action against them. All because their network had been used for the act of P2P downloading by a guest.

Unfortunately, their network is an open one meaning anyone can utilise it without having to identify themselves. This means that the online trail for finding those using it for P2P downloading is a cold one – and this café is now looking at the risk of having to take responsibility for the illegal activities themselves.

It seems unfair, doesn’t it? Running a small business is difficult enough without the additional stress of having to find a solution to this without going bankrupt. And, ultimately all this café was trying to do is what so many of us are – provide an additional service to their customers to enhance their experience.

But the law has little leeway for sympathy in cases like this.

If this all sounds scary, then please be comforted by the fact that the lessons to be learnt from this are easy to put into place, and don’t have to cost you the earth.

What can you do to protect yourself?

The most vital thing you can do to protect your business is to block open access to your network. The way to do this by is by creating a captive portal. This is essentially a log in screen that requires a guest to identify themselves to access the internet.

You may be a bit wary of doing this as it feels like a blocker for customers and they won't want to give away this information. However, this is incredibly common now and for most guests, it’s a step they expect and are comfortable with to gain access to your WIFI. It's also an opportunity to improve the guest experience, by providing a secure network.

For example, a lot of businesses use this step as a way to gain personal information for marketing purposes. Again, this is pretty standard and expected but you have to be implicit about your intentions and provide an ‘opt-in’ for customers to receive this sort of information.

A captive portal may not completely stop troublemakers, but it will allow you to have full sight of all who use your network and what they’re using it for. So, if anything were to be flagged you could mitigate liability and make sure the buck isn’t stopping with you.

On top of this crucially important step, you can also block specific categories of websites, including those used for downloading. As well as blocking P2P sites you can block gambling and other illicit sites. It’s up to you how far you go but these three categories are usually the minimum.

If you don't have an I.T consultant who can implement a secure and compliant guest network for you, Beambox provides plug and play guest networks for thousands of venues worldwide. Learn more about our Guest WiFi.

Protecting against the minority to benefit the majority.

Here at Beambox we believe the benefits of providing free internet access to your customers far outweigh any of the risks involved. The vast majority of your customers will use it how it’s intended and wouldn’t even think to abuse it for personal gain.

But it’s an unfortunate fact that there are those out there who would. So, to protect your business and your true customers, it’s absolutely critical you have safeguards in place for the rare times you may need them.

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