Founded in 1995, the Internet Services Providers’ Association is the UK’s first trade group for ISPs. In addition to helping to found the anti-child abuse Internet Watch Foundation, ISPA roles include the promotion of competition and innovation, plus self-regulation for the industry.
ISPA is currently headed up by a 10 person council, which includes representatives from some of the country’s largest Internet Service Providers such as BT, Virgin and Sky. More broadly, ISPA has 134 members including telecoms giants AOL, AT&T and EE, plus technology companies Google and Microsoft.
Each year ISPA holds the ISPA Awards, a ceremony during which the group honors entities they believe have contributed to make the Internet a safer and more secure place for consumers.
This year’s nominees have just been announced and in common with previous outings, surveillance and privacy are dominant themes. Apple, for example, is nominated as an ‘Internet Hero’ for its commitment to encryption and privacy. The FBI, on the other hand, is recognized as an Internet Villain for its efforts to undermine it.
Sadly, Villains are thick on the ground this year. Donald Trump has been shortlisted for his calls on the industry to ‘close down parts of the Internet’ while Mossack Fonseca are nominated for their poor cyber-security.
But perhaps of most interest to readers is that ISPA, an influential industry group, has chosen to short-list a notorious copyright troll for the coveted position of Internet Villain of the Year 2016.
The activities of TCYK LLC have been well documented in these pages. The company represents the makers of the Robert Redford movie The Company You Keep and for some time has been sending threatening letters to Internet account holders in the UK demanding cash settlements for alleged file-sharing.
“TCYK LLP are nominated for their ‘speculative invoicing’ campaign aimed at alleged copyright infringers that an MP described as ‘ludicrous’,” ISPA announced this week.
But this isn’t the first time that ISPA has shortlisted a copyright troll for the most corrosive award of the year. In 2011, ACS:Law owner Andrew Crossley was nominated and later went on to win Internet Villain Of the Year.
Crossley was eventually made bankrupt and barred from practicing as a solicitor, but even winning this award probably won’t deter TCYK LLC from its activities. Many believe the company and its allies in the UK were setup with Crossley’s demise in mind, and have hardened themselves from attacks and scrutiny. A flick of a switch and TCYK could be gone from the UK, no matter how rocky things become.
So, while nominating TCYK as Villain of the Year would be nice, it would be much more effective if ISPA actually used its power to stand up to shadowy copyright troll operations in order to protect consumers. Until that happens, customers will continue to be subjected to their unique brand of bullying.
The winners of the ISPA awards will be announced on Thursday 7th July 2016 in The Brewery in the City of London.