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TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding Welcomes UK Change of Strategy on Internet Piracy

Posted: 19th Sep, 2011 By: MarkJ
pirate flagtalktalk uk ispUK ISP TalkTalk ( AOL UK ) has welcomed last week's move (here) by the governments Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, which appeared to shift the costly and complicated burden of tackling "illegal" internet copyright infringement (piracy) away from ISPs and on to content providers.

Recent attempts to force internet providers into blocking piracy websites were branded as "not effective" by Ofcom (communications regulator) and have faced stiff opposition, although a Voluntary Code solution between Rights Holders and ISPs is still quietly being pursued.

Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk, said:

"[Hunt] suggested that responsibility for reducing access to sites which carry or distribute unlawful content should fall on content providers, carriers and advertisers. This is in contrast to the Digital Economy Act which puts the onus on ISPs as opposed to the rightsholders.

We believe the measures set in the Digital Economy Act are grossly unfair and will result in innocent customers suffering and being presumed guilty. We respect the need to reduce copyright infringement but believe it must be done in a fair way which protects customers’ interests. We therefore have more sympathy with the comments made by the Culture Secretary this week.

He was at pains to point out that ISPs would only be asked to block access to sites which a court had determined carried unlawful content or promoted the distribution of unlawful content. We have long argued that it is for the courts to decide whether a site is infringing copyright and should be blocked and we are pleased that the Culture Secretary agrees with this position. We believe it is far more sensible and workable to focus on tackling sites which promote illegal filesharing rather than scaring innocent customers."

As always the devil will be in the detail and we've yet to see precisely how all of these elements, except for some of the cost sharing, will be handled. A cross-industry body has been proposed to help identify infringing websites and a "streamlined legal process" would then make the final decision, although it's unclear how robust that last measure will be or whether all ISPs will be forced to implement the block itself (smaller providers would have some difficulty).

Meanwhile the Digital Economy Act (DEA) is still very much present, despite concerns about weaknesses in the appeals process and a danger that innocent users could find themselves being unfairly disconnected ("suspended") from the internet. On top of that some consumers have already found ways to avoid the problem almost entirely (example).
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