There was an interesting story on Friday which I picked up on Rory Cellan-Jones’s Twitter feed (@ruskin147 for Tweeters) – Karoo, who provide broadband services in Hull, had been disconnecting people without warning for offences such as downloading films.
I’ve been following the debate on the options for dealing with illegal file-sharing for some time. Indeed I’ve responded (on behalf of UCISA) to the previous two consultations on the issue that were embedded in the Digital Britain reports, and have started to work on a response to the latest edition. The debate has been between the rights owners who want strong action taken against illegal file-sharers and the internet service providers who have preferred to continue to operate within a voluntary code. So it was something of a surprise that Karoo, as a member of the latter community, opted to introduce such a draconian measure. The “one strike and you’re out” policy went way beyond the Government proposals and was even more draconian than the “three strikes” policy introduced in France. The firm have now moved to a milder “three strikes” approach with file-sharers receiving three written warnings before action is taken. In a statement on the matter, Karoo noted that “It is evident that we have been exceeding the expectations of copyright owners, the media and internet users. So, we have changed our policy to move in more line with the industry standard approach.”
Whilst Karoo cited a taking a firm line on the alleged abuse of our internet connections as the reason for their initial stance, it struck me that being relatively small they are probably better able to monitor their customers’ activities than the national providers. Their acceptable use policy makes several references to copyright – there are similar references within both the UCISA model regulations and those of universities and colleges throughout the country. But copyright isn’t a concept that is well understood, particularly in the internet age where many believe that “if it’s on the ‘net, it’s free”. Indeed services like BBC’s iPlayer may add to the confusion. In universities and colleges the common approach is to speak to the individual and explain why their actions are unacceptable. In general this is sufficient to deter second offences; educating the user has the desired effect. Perhaps Karoo need to add examples of breaches of copyright like downloading and sharing to their FAQs to help educate their own customers.