As reported widely in the media today, a list with names and addresses of some 8,000+ UK broadband users has been posted on the internet, along with details of adult films they are accused of sharing. The list belonged to ACS:Law, a law firm which writes letters to other ISPs’ customers that are accused by rightsholders of filesharing, demanding compensation payments.
I say ‘other’ because TalkTalk has never given any customer details to ACS:Law or any other law firm working on this basis, so our customers will not be affected by this breach.
It’s a stark reminder of the dangers of giving out customer details to third parties in trying to combat filesharing. While we do not condone illegal filesharing, we have consistently argued for better ways of combating copyright theft. Handing over customer details to law firms to seek ‘compensation’, based on accusations from rightsholders, is not the answer.
Tracking down illegal filesharers is complex and the current approach isn’t working. The first problem is around detection: if you can only see what’s being downloaded at each connection, how do you know which of the several users has actually infringed copyright?
Secondly, we’ve demonstrated before how it’s possible for connections to be hacked by serial filesharers. Again, this can result in false accusations being made against subscribers and is the key reason why we’ve refused to hand over our customers’ details to ACS:Law or any other law firm working in this way.
We have applied for a Judicial Review to re-evaluate the online infringement of copyright provisions of the Digital Economy Act which will use the same flawed detection methods and received insufficient Parliamentary scrutiny. You can get involved through the DEA Facebook page and Open Rights Group’s petition.