Brit ISP TalkTalk shows why cutting people off because a record exec says they're file-sharers is dumb

The British ISP TalkTalk has produced a compelling case against the government's plans to disconnect whole households from the Internet if the copyright industry accuses them -- without proving anything in court -- of three acts of infringement. TalkTalk picked a random street in North London and showed that 23 of the households in that road were using WEP security to stop strangers from accessing their networks. WEP has been thoroughly broken for years, but many older games consoles, phones and other devices are only capable of using WEP to connect to WiFi networks. TalkTalk argues that householders who have done everything they can to secure their networks from people who want to use them for cover during illegal file-sharing are still vulnerable to being disconnected by record- and film-company execs.

Households that are subjected to this form of collective punishment -- "someone around here broke the law, so you'll all suffer" -- lose access to the net, and with it, connectivity related to their employment, education, family connections, health, and government. All on the unsubstantiated say-so of the same entertainment companies that have previously accused a laser-printer of illegally downloading an Indiana Jones movie, not to mention the small legion of dead people; ancient, non-computer-owning grannies; and other innocents who've been legally threatened by the music industry for alleged copyright infringement.

A rep from the record industry insists that he has bought some magic beans "robust" evidence-gathering software that will never, ever cut someone off from the Internet on false pretences, so we don't need judges or evidence or trials or any of that messy business. But, of course, if someone is hacking your WiFi without your knowledge, he's prepared to cut you off from the Internet, because "the responsibility for ensuring that an internet account shared throughout a household is not being used for illegal filesharing clearly lies with the account holder."

ISP in file-sharing wi-fi hack


  1. Is it just me, or is the line “the responsibility for ensuring that an internet account shared throughout a household is not being used for illegal filesharing clearly lies with the account holder.” a bit like saying I’m banning you from driving cause someone stole your car and ran over a granny?

    That’s clearly stupid…

  2. Yeah, but there’s no smoke without fire innit.

    I mean, sure, that laser-printer may not have actually illegally downloaded an Indiana Jones movie, but if you look at all the details, you’d probably find that it had done something wrong.

  3. Another major problem with this kind of system is that there are no ramifications for a false accusation. This means there is nothing to deter the studios from accusing someone of illegal file-sharing ‘just to be safe’.

    If a studio is made to pay a household that proves itself innocent (and yes, this system is a guilty until proven innocent one) an amount equal to damages paid by real illegal file-sharers (think $500,000 per accusation), then maybe the studios would not be so trigger-happy.

  4. @ 1 /agree

    Intellectual Property is where a huge majority of money is going to be generated in the web ages & they are going to clap down hard with punishments that don’t reflect the crime.

    Innocent until proven guilty, is that not the law?

    lets not for get who is actually behind the MPAA – RIAA, these are the companies that need to be targeted and boycotted into changing their ways, purchase only 2nd hand media and do not purchase anything branded sony, why allow the fecktards to dictate Orwellian hardware DRM designed to take away rights not to stop piracy anymore.

    Name and shame the companies as all the **AA trade group name is for is to protect the f’ing corporate globalist wankers from bad press.


    # Sony BMG Music Entertainment
    # Warner Music Group
    # Universal Music Group
    # EMI


    # Sony Pictures
    # Warner Bros. (Time Warner)
    # Universal Studios (NBC Universal)
    # The Walt Disney Company
    # 20th Century Fox (News Corporation)
    # Paramount Pictures Viacom—(DreamWorks owners since February 2006)


    If Sony payola (google it) wasn’t bad enough to destroy indie competition you have this:

    Is it justified to steal from thieves? READ ON.

    RIAA Claims Ownership of All Artist Royalties For Internet Radio

    “With the furor over the impending rate hike for Internet radio stations, wouldn’t a good solution be for streaming internet stations to simply not play RIAA-affiliated labels’ music and focus on independent artists? Sounds good, except that the RIAA’s affiliate organization SoundExchange claims it has the right to collect royalties for any artist, no matter if they have signed with an RIAA label or not. ‘SoundExchange (the RIAA) considers any digital performance of a song as falling under their compulsory license. If any artist records a song, SoundExchange has the right to collect royalties for its performance on Internet radio. Artists can offer to download their music for free, but they cannot offer their songs to Internet radio for free … So how it works is that SoundExchange collects money through compulsory royalties from Webcasters and holds onto the money. If a label or artist wants their share of the money, they must become a member of SoundExchange and pay a fee to collect their royalties.'”

  5. why stop there? sue the makers of Wi-Fi routers, sue the creators of WEP and WPA, sue the makers of games consoles, sue, sue, sue………

    *cue Magic Roundabout theme*

  6. Actually, the law has provision for false accusation. That’s a sweet line in vengeance. Your representative would stand in court and say “this is a frivolous and vexatious claim your honour”, and go from there. If you were cut off and say, lost a job opportunity due to lack of timely internet availability, there are some lovely economic consequences to start a counter-claim.

    mmm nice.

    “magic beans” made me fart with laughter.

    Is there not a retail side of the world that has a different view on all this to the entertainment industry? ie I can’t see Amazon, ebay, Google, John Lewis etcetc being happy that their customer base could suffer because some spotty teen downloaded unauthorised copies of some bootylicious babe selling her wares, as instructed to do in the most sexual and demeaning way possible. To maximise sales.

    So come on – have some fun with this! Lots of talk, set up a test fund and someone go under the knife in the interests of advancing civilisation!

  7. Thank goodness it’s absolutely impossible to misuse the postal service in this manner. I mean surely if they want this law for the internet then if it was possible to do the same thing in the old IRL they would want to do the same thing to postal operators – i.e. force them to search parcels and letters and get them to threaten customers with “disconnection” from their service. Perhaps, if this real world transfer of music were possible, they would suggest that they don’t need evidence of you receiving illegal packages and can force these postal services to disconnect you. Worse yet, if it were possible, what if one were to find that someone was getting the illegal parcels delivered to your address without your knowledge. Surely, once again if it were possible, this wouldn’t actually be a decent excuse. Well all I can say is that with the number of problems it would cause I’m more than thankful that the whole situation is something that is completely and utterly impossible…. oh… wait…

  8. Maybe some of the entertainment execs currently pushing for this even know how miserably useless an idea it is and don’t care.

    Maybe they don’t care if they’re taking swings at the right people. They just have to sock someone to keep the shareholders off their back until they retire. Let someone else fix the damage it does for all they care.

  9. Of course, just as wrong, but seems like a few record execs and **AA employees being accused falsely would get that nipped in the bud. Did I say few? I meant a lot of.

    And that Internet Radio collective royalty collection; sounds like their needs to be a Independent But Just About Free Artist’s Association. Royalty fee: .01 cent/pence/euro. Just enough to accuse the Other Guys of theft of their royalties. Use their own shark teeth against them.

  10. Hey, Britain, when you get done with your self-experimentation with fascism and authoritarian government, the rest of the free world would like you to rejoin us.

  11. I just got this email (an hour ago): “Tiscali is now part of the TalkTalk Group” (I have Tiscali broadband).

    Sounds good :)

    1. You know what that means? You’re going to have to sing “It’s My Life” every night from now on.

  12. Isn’t the argument a bit of a strawman anyway? What percentage of internet users know how to crack WEP protection? And what percentage of ‘copyright infringers’ are doing so by wardriving? It doesn’t really get at the heart of the matter & the ‘user didn’t know’ argument would easily be countered by asking users if their network is protected & providing simple instructions explaining why & how they should do so with the first two warning letters.

    I don’t know that I trust copyright holders to accurately pinpoint infringing accounts, but I think the unprotected wifi argument is fairly weak & isn’t going to stop the legislation.

    1. Why would you need to wardrive if you could just hijack your neighbor’s connection that way?

      I agree that the argument is not exactly the strongest one they could have made, and the scenario isn’t the most likely, but it’s a pretty solid argument at least. And that makes it more tangible than for example “I might miss a job opportunity because I got cut off despite being innocent”, I think.

    2. Cracking WEP encryption isn’t hard. It just takes effort. A little googling or a question to the right person will land any idiot with the tools they need to do so in a more or less automated fashion. Skill level doesn’t necessarily correlate to success above a certain modest threshold. Greater skill just makes things easier and faster. It is entirely possible to accomplish it just by aping someone else’s method, with freely available tools.

      Right now the argument might seem like a strawman but this sort of thing already is fairly easy (I’ve done it myself) and clamping down on other options will make this easy alternative become popular unless a better option is invented and popularized.

  13. The number 1 problem with the idea of accusing the record execs: every time I see this idea show up it seems that the person doing the accusing is just as important. Not all accusations will be equal under the law. The executives would have to accuse themselves. Eminem (name grabbed from my nether regions) would not be able to accuse anyone. His record label would have to do it and they aren’t going to bite themselves now are they?

  14. I only watch movies illegally now, so that there’s no mistake when they kick in my door. I’d hate to be a bother.

  15. Well this particular problem suggests a fairly straightforward solution.

    1) Find the residences of a few of these industry executives pushing for this nonsense.

    2) Crack their wireless security. (Surely they can’t all be using WPA).

    3) Download some top 40 crap, plus maybe some child porn just for good measure and to make sure the media get to sink their teeth into something.

    4) Alert the relevant authorities and wait for the ISP to cut the scumbags off.

    5) …Profit?

  16. @ boyfinley – take those who live in flats. I can see about half a dozen unencrypted or poorly encrypted wifi signals of various strength. I don’t bother with them as I obviously have my own connection, but if I wanted to, it’d be trivial to piggyback on them to pick up Dollhouse etc…

  17. @joeposts : Brilliant! Why fight the wave? [beautiful ducts, by the way!]

    I say- let’s ALL join in, give them cannon fodder over tea, and at least see the Norweigan subtitles for that long-dead prOn we’ve been eyeing on and have a good old time waiting for the pitter patter of jackboots on the veranda, no?

    Homeland my arse. . . this place is rapidly becoming a prison.

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