Karoo changes file-sharer disconnection policies

The Hull-based ISP Karoo has said it will change its policies, after it was found to be summarily cutting off users who it suspected of file-sharing copyrighted material.On Friday morning, the BBC reported that Karoo — which is in the unusual position of being the only ISP available to Hull residents — was cutting off file-sharers without warning, then only allowing them back onto the network if they signed a document promising not to do it again.

The Hull-based ISP Karoo has said it will change its policies, after it was found to be summarily cutting off users who it suspected of file-sharing copyrighted material.

On Friday morning, the BBC reported that Karoo — which is in the unusual position of being the only ISP available to Hull residents — was cutting off file-sharers without warning, then only allowing them back onto the network if they signed a document promising not to do it again.

Later on Friday, Karoo sent ZDNet UK a statement in which it said it had changed its policies, so that suspected file-sharers would be cut off only after three written warnings.

"We have always taken a firm line on the alleged abuse of our internet connections and if we are made aware by copyright owners or the Police that customers are accessing inappropriate material, performing illegal acts or infringing copyright, we have a duty to act," Nick Thompson, the ISP's director of consumer and publishing services, said in the statement.

"However, we continually review our policies and procedures to reflect own customers' changing needs and evolving use of the internet. 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 still taking the issues of copyright infringement and illegal internet activity seriously. Going forward, we will provide customers with three written notifications before their service is temporarily suspended."

The "industry standard approach" is actually, at the moment, to avoid cutting off users. Although some ISPs have experimented with sending out warning letters, these have not resulted in disconnection — partly because the multitude of ISPs operating across the rest of the UK means any provider cutting off its customers is just giving them to a rival.

The Digital Britain report, published in June, also stopped short of calling for disconnections, instead urging ISPs to consider methods such as bandwidth throttling and protocol blocking.

In France, President Sarkozy's 'three-strikes' Hadopi bill was deemed unenforceable by the constitutional court in June, prompting the European Commission to say that new net-neutrality legislation was rendered unnecessary by member states' existing rules.

At the time, the Commission said that "the right balance between the need to protect intellectual-property rights and important fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of information can be found already in each of the national legal systems of the Member States".

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