British ISP TalkTalk, who has four million customers after having gobbled up AOL U.K. and Tiscali U.K. in recent years, has vowed to not divulge any customer information to rights holders in pursuit of alleged P2P infringers, according to a report from Torrentfreak. TalkTalk also said that it will fight orders to throttle or disconnect customers that haven’t been convicted of a crime — a stance that could prove to be the first challenge for Britain’s proposed Digital Economy bill.
TalkTalk’s statement comes after a number of other major U.K. ISPs were found to cooperate with a controversial local law firm that has been forcing thousands of alleged P2P infringers into costly settlemens. These types of pre-lawsuit claims have come under increased criticism in the U.K., with politicians calling them “legal blackmail” and consumer advocates reporting a high number of false positives.
At the core of the current controversy is an anti-piracy campaign fought by London-based law office ACS Law on behalf of a number of software, music and adult movie rights holders. ACS Law has been cooperating with anti-piracy companies to log thousands of IP addresses of users downloading these types of files.
The law firm recently asked a U.K. court to order a number of ISPs to hand over the names of customers associated with those IP addresses. Several ISPs including Be, O2, BT, Plusnet, Enternet and Kingston did not oppose the order, and their customers in question can now expect letters demanding the payment of £500 ($800).
One ISP notably absent from the proceeding was TalkTalk. Torrentfreak asked why, and TalkTalk responded with the commitment to fight such court orders. Apparently that was enough reason for ACS Law to not even try to get customer information from the ISP in the first place. That’s good news for TalkTalk customers, because the U.K.-based consumer advocacy organization Which reported this week that it has received more that 150 letters from customers that got legal threats from ACS Law, despite not having engaged in any P2P piracy.
However, TalkTalk’s announcement may have larger implications beyond the current anti-piracy campaigns. U.K. parliamentarians are currently debating a bill that would force ISPs to disconnect alleged infringers from the Internet after three notices from rights holders — a measure commonly known as “three strikes.”
Current drafts call for U.K. telecom regulator Ofcom to supervise this process. Disconnected users will be able to appeal such a decision, but there will not be any possibility for prior legal recourse. TalkTalk’s renewed commitment to fight such orders shows again that getting three strikes implemented in the U.K. will be anything but easy.