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TalkTalk continues its Don't Disconnect Us campaign
Monday 23 November 2009 12:14:18 by Andrew Ferguson

Unlawful file sharing is getting feathers ruffled and has led to Stephen Fry tweeting about it.

Dear Mandy, splendid fellow in many ways, but he is SO WRONG about copyright. Please sign and RT #webwar #threestrikes

Copy of tweet from Stephen Fry

TalkTalk has also been vocal releasing a statement on Friday in its ongoing campaign. The Digital Economy Bill is far from an easy read but to summarise, no-one will be identified to a rights holder without the requirement for a court order, and secondly it seems the rights holders are expected to take action against the people they choose to pursue in the courts, rather than the default being an Internet disconnect. There are powers that the Secretary of State can use to change this procedure.

This sounds very like the current system, the major difference is the obligation on the ISP to pass on warning letters (which is where mis-identification is possible) and retaining records of who got physical letters from whom. The difference is that when an ISP is required by court order to identify the customer, the rights holder will then have information on many instances of copyright infringement. The mass of information is the key and it means if someone loses a case the fines could be very large (imagine £500 for each track). Assuming that cases of single infringements are not taken to court then random errors and hacking may be less of a concern.

The Digital Economy Bill does allow for technical measures with talk of temporary disconnects, but more as a measure of last resort, and we would presume that if rights holders bend the ear of the Secretary of State, then we may see these measures being forced on providers. The progression is not as simple as the five steps currently outlined by TalkTalk on its site, but these are waiting on an update to reflect the new bill. The provider has started a Number 10 petition, but on reading the petition one can see how a political answer is possible stating that the Bill has measures in place to ensure innocent people are not disconnected.

TalkTalk has published a manifesto making pledges to its customers:

  1. Unless we are served with a court order we will not surrender your details to rights holders. We are the only major ISP to have taken this stance and will maintain it.
  2. We will continue to fight this draconian legislation as it makes it way through Parliament.
  3. If we are instructed to disconnect your account due to alleged copyright infringement we will refuse to do so and tell the rights holders we'll see them in court.

Point 1 is actually part of the bill, and most providers quietly get the court orders and respond to them. Very often the court order is to identify a number of users with an ISP. Of course the bill does not appear to cover a rights holder or law firm acting on their behalf going on a phishing expedition (i.e. asking for many more users details than it needs to help build its own database of people for possible future legal action). On Point 2 there is some 70 days of business before the next General Election must happen, so there is a possibility that if the Digital Economy Bill proves contentious that it may not make it onto the statute books by the General Election. On Point 3, the key point is alleged infringement. As a customer, TalkTalk is not giving customers carte blanche to infringe copyright, simply stating that it wants to see things go through the courts. For those serial infringers, a simple Internet disconnect is likely to be less painful than a large fine from a civil court and the surrounding publicity.

As things stand we have what looks to be an Internet industry lining up against the rights holders ready for a playground face-off, when in reality they should be trying to engage and provide ways for consumers to consume media without infringing copyright. The complete lack of a new definition for fair use fit for a digital age in the Bill is a major disappointment. Broadband has been a game changer in allowing people access to material in a similar way that the ability to record a performance and play it back again which started in the 1870's did. The difference with that technology was that it was not until the 1950's that the 7" single market became large. Broadband has moved at a pace far faster and trying to bend a fast moving beast to fit a mid 20th century model is going to be difficult and maybe impossible. The media industry is making some moves, but invariably the limits restrict what devices you can play material, even when you have notionally purchased it.

The biggest concern among many people will be the backstop powers that lie with the Secretary of State. If these powers become law, the potential for politically motivated action is entirely possible. For example, without the need for any judicial processes providers might be forced to disconnect for one month those who receive 20 notifications in a two year period. Or whole websites/services may be required to be blocked, e.g. if overseas VPN connections are identified as proving popular with serial copyright infringers providers may be forced to block access to any VPN outside the UK.


Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
It is simply a case of a group desperately trying to prop up an outdated business model to protect fatcats. They aren't trying to protect artists, just the system. The implications are too dire to contemplate, as it will give government the chance to break the internet if they succeed. But they won't succeed, they will just waste time and money trying. Shame they don't get IT.
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
I don't think people realize that if this goes through, the Secretary of State will have full power of the internet.

The current media industry is working with the government to get the internet censored.

mp3com originally had the best idea, music freely available, artists got advertisement money, portion depending upon popularity, not like Spotify where they next to nothing even if they get over a million plays (Gaga got $167 for a million plays).
Posted by Newnetteruser over 7 years ago
If TalkTalk stay firm, they will be my business as a point of principle
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
'providers may be forced to block access to any VPN outside the UK.'

I'm sure my multinational employer who I work from home for 2 days a week via a USA terminated VPN would love this. That is also allows Mandy to basically do as he pleases without any kind of control isn't nice either. An unelected guy changing the law as he sees fit with no comeback. There's democratic process at work.
Posted by TonyHoyle over 7 years ago
So my boss, who *needs* to work across our VPN from Australia, because that' were he lives, would be cut off. I can see that going down well.

Actually all that would happen is I'd (a) use an ISP that would do all it can to not implement these restrictions (AAISP is a good bet), and (b) use any technology possible to get around the block - because losing overseas VPN would cost us real money.
Posted by Rroff over 7 years ago
As above I sometimes have reason to log into USA based systems via VPN for business reasons - it would affect a lot of legit people.

Is there any other industry that blames their customers (and potential customers) for their own failings at business?
Posted by dgmckenzie over 7 years ago
And all this while we have troops overseas fighting for our Freedom
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Blocking VPN's? It will simply never happen.
Posted by _TRIaXOR_ over 7 years ago

14,000 Signatures and counting..
Posted by _TRIaXOR_ over 7 years ago
i mean near 13,000 *blush* lol
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Cant say i think much of Talktalk normally but well done to them on atleast standing up and trying to say no to the nanny state.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
I just cannot see how this can be enforced at all, its going to fall over itself so badly before it even gets anywhere. Even with logging to show infringement how can they prove beyond a doubt the owner of the Internet connection infringed and not someone who stole their wi-fi.. or... a minor. Or what about someone in a free wi-fi hotspot, is the vendor to blame? It can't work.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
And don't give me all that "oh its up to you to secure your own wireless network" think about how many people just don't have a clue in that area, is it just "tough" if someone uses their wi-fi and leeches films, is it their fault for not being up on it and here is your massive fine. Its already been in the press about innocents in court and it thrown out, how is this going to differ?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
It's quite clear.

For example: Technical measures can be ordered by OFCOM or the Government against people identified by content industries, on accusation alone.

One accusation could let them take your connection to 0Kbps for a year. Perfectly legal under this law.

Also, loool@ waa unelected whinging. Cabinet goverment, it's how the UK works. Focus on the real issues, thanks.
Posted by bosie over 7 years ago
What a complete waste of everybody's time, effort and finances and all this regulation will be. Somebody pour a cold bucket of water over them.
Posted by mishminx over 7 years ago
Interesting that the EU commissioner has just given Spain a warning on this very subject. "Effective and timely judicial review is as much guaranteed as a prior, fair and impartial procedure, the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy."

Perhaps she ought have a word with Mandy...
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
gotta love the uk, lets kill the internet so rights holders can hang on to ancient business practices and government can censor anti propoganda sites. Wake up rights holders its no longer a regional market it is global, get with the times.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
^^^ Its not going to work chrysalis, even the chinese who are a bit more tech savy than a dopey music industry and our government have trouble censoring their residents. As for catching pirates etc thats laughable for many reasons some of which i mention in another news story here...
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