ISPs “too keen” to shop customers to rights holders
Consumer Focus has called on ISPs and hosting companies to better protect customer data when they are asked to disclose details of potential IP infringers.
The call comes as almost 3,000 consumers are expected to be hit with letters from Golden Eye, acting on behalf of pornographic film producer Ben Dover, relating to alleged downloading of films.
Although a court ruled earlier this year that ISP O2 had a duty to release the names and addresses associated with the downloads, it ruled out the cases of 6,000 other customer targeted by Golden Eye, which Consumer Focus said O2 was about going to release without challenging the validity of the claims.
“ISPs and online hosts have a duty towards their customers, which is underpinned by data protection and confidentiality law, and arises from the duty of care an ISP or online host owes to its customers in what should be a relationship of trust,” Consumer Focus said in guidance sent to ISPs.
We are urging them to be rigorous in protecting their customers’ personal data – to help make sure the rights of consumers and copyright owners are fairly balanced
“The fact that customers typically have no way of scrutinising applications for disclosure of their personal data amplifies the duty of ISPs and online hosts to ensure that such applications are indeed well-founded, necessary and proportionate, and that their customers’ right to privacy and data protection is respected.”
The issue revolves around the way ISPs deal with a legal tool known as a Norwich Pharmacal Order, which demands providers disclose the names and addresses of customers alleged to have downloaded music or films illegally.
Golden Eye had initially intended to send letters to more than 9,000 O2 customers, demanding £700 in payments, and only when Consumer Focus intervened did a High Court say that the majority of the cases were unwarranted, with only those relating to production company Ben Dover standing up to scrutiny.
Call for action
“We have written to all the major ISPs and online hosts who may be required to assist copyright owners to enforce their rights,” said Mike O’Connor, chief executive of Consumer Focus. “We are urging them to be rigorous in protecting their customers’ personal data – to help make sure the rights of consumers and copyright owners are fairly balanced.”
According to Consumer Focus, ISPs should check the applications for supporting evidence and check “whether any letters to be sent to end users accusing them of illegal activity are misleading or likely to cause distress”.