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UPDATE UK ISPs Attack Bono over Claims they Get Rich from Piracy

Posted: 05th Jan, 2010 By: MarkJ
p2p pirateCommunications provider Entanet UK, which supplies several Internet Service Providers (ISP) with resold and wholesale broadband services, has hit back at recent comments by U2 front man Bono who claimed that broadband providers were getting "rich" with "swollen profits" amassed as a result of P2P music piracy on their networks.

Entanet's marketing chief, Darren Farnden, has today responded by suggesting that Bono "should stick to singing and campaigning for poorer nations" and leave the economics of ISP provision to the professionals. Bono, an outspoken critic of illegal file sharing, obviously doesn’t agree.

Bono told the New York Times:

“A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.”

However those familiar with the competitive broadband market will know all too well that ISPs are often far from rich and make very little profit. Indeed the worst offenders of piracy are often also the most costly to support, with just a small percentage of customers being able to consume the bulk of an ISPs bandwidth and thus reduce the performance for other users.

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing at Entanet, said on their Opinion Blog:

"Those of us within this supposedly swollen, profit rich Internet industry are more than aware of the reality. Consumer demand for the cheapest, fastest broadband continues to increase resulting in even lower profit margins for us “greedy” ISPs. And as for the comment about our “swollen profits perfectly mirroring the lost receipts of the music business” – where do we begin?

I would hazard a guess that these, are yet again, calculated on flawed hypothetical principles that everyone who downloads illegally would actually legally purchase the same amount of music. This is ridiculous. Just because Fred can download 20 songs for free does not mean that he would have otherwise paid for them all."

Bono also struck out at ISPs for their inability to Police the Internet of such material - "We’re the post office, they [ISPs] tell us; who knows what’s in the brown-paper packages?" he added. The remark is clearly made in response to how the UK ISPA often defends providers by saying that "ISPs are mere conduits" of information, a position that could admittedly be threatened, at least in part, by the growing abandonment of net neutrality (unrestricted access to internet services).

Farnden disagrees:

"There are two things very wrong with that analogy. Firstly by law, the Post Office is not allowed to open your mail nor would most reasonable people with reasonable privacy awareness want them to. Secondly, ISPs have not said they can’t or won’t inspect packets, they have simply raised concerns regarding privacy and the morality of this practice. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?"

Entanet infers that Bono is once again demonstrating a classic misunderstanding of both how ISPs operate and the market itself. The ISP notes that rights holders still do not understand the new distribution models that the Internet has provided and are failing to adapt new solutions to take advantage of it. Services like Spotify are the exception to the rule, though there’s no guarantee they will survive.

Ironically Bono closes his rant by saying, "Note to self: Don’t get over-rewarded rock stars on this bully pulpit, or famous actors,” to which Farnden comically responds, "Oops too late!"

UPDATE - 12:59pm

UK ISP TalkTalk has also waded in with a few choice remarks against Bono's outburst.

A TalkTalk spokesperson said:

"The U2 frontman is seriously misguided. ISPs generate no additional revenue or profit from customers sharing files. In fact we incur some marginal cost due to the extra bandwidth required.

It is outrageous to equate the need to protect minors from the evils of child pornography with the need to protect copyright owners. As a society we have accepted that it is appropriate and proportionate to intrude on people’s Internet use by blocking access to sites that host child abuse images. To suggest that sharing a music file is every bit as evil as child abuse beggars belief.

Incredibly, if the Digital Economy Bill as it is currently framed becomes law, it will become legal to summarily disconnect someone for alleged copyright abuse but if you want to disconnect them for accessing child abuse images then you will have to get a court order first.

Bono obviously does not understand how simple it is to access copyright protected content without being detected. P2P filesharing can be spotted (albeit at great cost) but there are dozens of applications and tools out there which allow people to view content for free and no amount of snooping can detect it."
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