TalkTalk refuses to become the Internet Police

By Mark O’Neill

Britain’s Carphone Warehouse, which owns the internet service provider, TalkTalk, has firmly rejected demands by the British music industry to cut off the internet connection of any TalkTalk customer caught illegally downloading copyrighted material.

The CEO of Carphone Warehouse, Charles Dunstone, has firmly stated that his company will not become “the internet police”

“Our position is very clear. We are the conduit that gives users access to the internet. We do not control the internet, nor do we control what our users do on the internet.”

While the decision has been hailed as sensible by customers, it has been met with anger by British music executives who wanted a “three strikes and you’re out” policy for illegal file downloaders and who wanted the ISP’s to cut off any customers who were caught. They instantly accused Mr Dunstone of “misrepresenting their position”.

Other British ISP’s, most notably Virgin Media, seem to be more willing to co-operate with the entertainment industry. But now that Carphone Warehouse has indicated that they will not co-operate under any circumstances, many are now predicting that the British government will have little alternative but to step in and legislate on the issue. Previously the government had hoped that everyone could come to a “gentleman’s agreement” and co-operate voluntarily but Carphone Warehouse seems to have scuttled that particular ship before it could leave the harbor. Many see parliamentary legislation as totally unworkable and a nightmare scenario which they had hoped to avoid.

The whole file sharing issue in the UK is in stark contrast to some other parts of Europe. Prosecutors here in Germany have dismissed file sharing as nothing more than a petty offense and that the identities of file sharers should be protected under data protection laws. A Norwegian political party is even pushing for file sharing to be legalized! However, France is following the tough stance of Britain with President Sarkozy’s government aggressively going after file sharers.

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