Every day, tens of thousands of warning letters are sent out to ISPs on behalf of copyright holders. Some ISPs simply ignore them but the majority forwards the emails to their customers. However, the actions of the UK ISP Karoo in dealing with these requests are quite unique, and more far reaching than this.
Instead of notifying its customers that they have received a letter from a copyright holder, with the claim that their IP-address is associated with illegal downloading – Karoo customers are immediately disconnected without any prior warning. As we reported last year, Karoo doesn’t even allow users to have an open router.
Andrea Robinson is one of the Karoo customers who was accused of downloading illegally, Terminator Salvation in her case. She lost her Internet connection and the only option she has to get her Internet access reinstated is by signing a form sent to her by Karoo, which says she admits guilt.
“The form basically said ‘if I admit my guilt you’ll reconnect me’. So I didn’t sign it and walked out. I’m still not reconnected,” she told the BBC. With Karoo being the only ISP in her neighborhood she is now left with no Internet, and clueless what to do about it. According to the BBC she is not the only one, as there are similar cases at Karoo dating two years back.
In the United States there is one ISP that employs a similar strategy – Cox. When Cox receives a takedown request from a copyright holder, it will disconnect the customer associated with the IP-address, if they don’t admit to being guilty. If a customer receives three takedown requests their Internet is cut off entirely.
The real problem with Karoo and Cox’s methods lies in the fact that they act upon accusations made by anti-piracy organizations who employ evidence gathering methods that are shoddy, to say the least.
In the UK, the BBC consumer show Watchdog revealed how easy it is to point the finger (and pull the plug) on the wrong person. For Karoo this means that these wrongfully accused customers will lose their Internet access, unless they admit to an offense they were not involved in.
Since Karoo is the one and only Internet provider in the area, some will feel that they have no alternative, and they will sign the “guilty” form just to get back online. The anti-piracy groups must be proud of Karoo and their reckless tactics but the ISP should stop to consider the future. Monopolies don’t last forever and the Internet has a long memory.
Update: After today’s reports Karoo decided to change their policy. Instead of disconnecting alleged pirates directly, they will operate a a three strikes and you are out rule.