BPI In Heated TalkTalks With Carphone

Already at odds with Virgin Media over newspaper reports claiming the Internet provider is close to making a deal with the record industry to crack down on illegal downloads, the BPI is in another row with the owners of telecom company TalkTalk.

Carphone Warehouse chief exec Charles Dunstone, whose company is behind Britain’s third-largest Internet provider, is reportedly "incensed" at the BPI’s proposal that ISPs should be responsible for "policing" the Internet.

He says he objects to the idea that ISPs should disconnect users who ignore repeated warnings that sharing music tracks is not acceptable.

The final straw for the man The Observer refers to as "Carphone Charlie" appears to be a threat of legal action if he failed to comply with the BPI’s demands within 14 days.

"TalkTalk rejects music industry threats and refuses to become the Internet police," Dunstone told a BBC technology correspondent.

"They’re not just shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted – the horse has left town, got married, and started a family," he said, claiming the BPI is trying to blame the ISPs because the record companies were slow to deal with the advance of the Internet.

The BPI is trying to reach an agreement with Internet providers to enforce a "three strikes" policy, under which consumers who illegally download music are cut off after being caught a third time.

The Carphone boss told the BBC he would "fight all the way against any move to make him cut off customers engaged in file-sharing," and that he doesn’t believe the government will bring in laws forcing him to do that.

"It’s between the user and them, it’s not to do with us. My lawyer explained it to me: It is like trying to prosecute the bus company that takes a shoplifter to the shops," Dunstone told The Times.

The BPI says Dunstone has missed the point and, contrary to TalkTalk’s claims, passing advice on to their customers is not unreasonable or unworkable.

"No ISP is being asked to police the Internet. We ask that they act on information that is provided to them," said BPI chief exec Geoff Taylor. "TalkTalk claims it is their role to ‘protect the rights of their customers to use the Internet as they choose.’

"We strongly disagree on this point when that usage is illegal, and the government’s position in this area is also clear."