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Karoo backs down and adopts 'three strikes' policy for illegal p2p file sharers instead of immediate cut off
Friday 24 July 2009 17:01:28 by Sebastien Lahtinen

Karoo, the broadband services arm of Hull based telco KCom has been criticised over the last 24 hours for its harsh treatment of those customers accused of engaging in illegal peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing. The provider has been disconnecting anyone who it has been advised has engaged in such illegal activity, with no advance warning.

What makes this situation worse for consumers in Hull, is KCom's dominance in the market--Most users do not have other options when it comes to broadband with the only alternative being mobile broadband. This means users who are disconnected from the Karoo service may feel they are being held hostage as KCom is reported to be requiring them to sign agreements confirming they will not engage in illegal file sharing before reconnecting them. This of course, is effectively forcing an admission of guilt with no legitimate recourse.

The creative industries have been hit hard by illegal file sharing on the Internet and they are lobbying government to make ISPs responsible. Some have taken action against users, but this makes them unpopular. ISPs are often seen as an easy target as many see them as having the responsibility to police the Internet. The rights holders have lobbied for a 'three strikes' policy.

Stage 1: ISP sends user a letter advising them that they may be engaging in illegal file sharing, and reminding them of the illegal nature of such activity.

Stage 2: If the activity continues, the broadband connection is suspended and the user is contacted with a view to giving them a last chance to mend their ways.

Stage 3: If the illegal activity persists after two earnings, the user's service contract is terminated and they are permanently disconnected.

Three Strikes Policy

Karoo seem to have been jumping to Stage 2 by disconnecting a user and then sending them a letter, rather than first issuing a warning. This is at odds with the position taken by other service providers. Virgin Media for example send warning letters to customers, but do not at present terminate connections.

Digital Britain

The Digital Britain report discussed various options on curbing such illegal activity and is seeking to force ISPs to take a more responsible stance to police their users' activities. It proposed to make Ofcom responsible for reducing illegal file sharing, and suggests that should a co-operative approach not result in a significant reduction, ISPs should be forced to restrict users' connections, such as slowing them down or implement other kinds of blocking to try and curb the activity. It is expected that ISPs should be not only notifying infringers, but also collecting statistics which may be made available to rights holders on production of a court order.

Do warnings work?

Interestingly, The Digital Britain report suggests that "there is evidence that most people who receive a notification stop unlawful file-sharing". This may be due to the fact that parents may not be aware of the activities of their children online, but it would be wrong to presume this activity is limited to the teenage population. Sharing music illegally has always happened, but the Internet has made it so much easier.

Evidence

Comments from some rights holders have suggested that their data is never wrong but there are known methods used by p2p network to inject 'fake data' into the system to try and fool systems, so they have to keep up with changes. We are certain that sooner or later, a consumer will be in court having to defend themselves against accusations of illegal activity, with the difficulty of trying to prove a negative, that is to say prove that you didn't do something.

The outcome

We understand that Karoo have listened to feedback from the media and users and have confirmed their plans to adopt a 'three strikes' policy. This does not of course address the wider issue of how consumers can defend themselves if they find themselves the target of baseless accusations, but that is a more complex issue which is a matter for the industry, consumer groups, rights holders and government to work through together. Well done Karoo!

Comments

Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
"that is to say prove that you didn't do something" - can this happen in our legal system ? Surely the prosecution or the plaintiff have to prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal case or "on the balance of probabilities" in a civil one.
Posted by Rroff over 7 years ago
It would be nice if the rights holder had to show that the product was available online at that point in time, at a reasonable (I don't necessarily mean cheap) price before action was taken against "consumers"... I dislike piracy and would be quite happy to see freeloaders cut off - but without piracy we wouldn't have seen half the innovation we've seen online so far...

Not to mention the high possibility of false positives, etc. mean that theres no way hardline action can be taken at this point in time.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
@herdwick - Actually in the case of a civil wrong, the burden of proof is "on the balance of probabilities" and not "beyond a reasonable doubt" so when someone turns up with logs showing your IP address supposedly doing something illegal, you have to be able to show the flaws in that data collection method; or in simple terms "prove your innocence" to ensure the balance is in hour favour.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Except there is no attempt to show a civil wrong here, seb, this is unilateral action taken by an ISP, under contractual law.
Posted by Capn over 7 years ago
I can't understand why Virgin or BT haven't moved in. Heard there are 190,000 homes in that area?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Yea, that's a small market and KCom have deliberately used non-standard wiring (with a low cross section) which means you'd need to use expensively adapted equipment to get the DSL signal across.

(And for VM, well, they're not cabling new towns)

There is a local startup, Fibrestream, which is about to start connecting residents.
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
By the sounds of this, Karoo needs to die.

Go Fibrestream!

Also how the hell did Karoo beat BT to Hull?
Posted by adebov over 7 years ago
"Also how the hell did Karoo beat BT to Hull?"
They've been there for over 100 years (long before BT existed) and started at a time when many places had their own telephone company.
KC just never got bought out by the Post Office or BT.
Posted by mpellatt over 7 years ago
"The creative industries have been hit hard by illegal file sharing on the Internet"

Disappointed to see you parotting this assertion, when there is plenty of evidence from parties other than the creative industries themselves that there are other factors at play.
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 7 years ago
Surely "proof" or evidence concerning the "balance of probabilities" should go before a court of law for a verdict before drastic action is taken, otherwise any ISP doing this on their own judgment should rightly be wide open for suing by aggrieved customers.
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