Talk Talk Says No No to Policing the Net

The head of UK Internet provider Talk Talk says he doesn’t want to be the recording industry’s policeman. A noble stance is there ever was one — until you recall that Charles Dunstone’s ISP is one of the ones using ad insertion software from Phorm (albeit on an opt-in basis).

In an interview with the BBC, Dunstone said, “Our position is very clear. We are the conduit that gives users access to the Internet. We do not control the Internet, nor do we control what our users do on the Internet.” Notice he says nothing about watching what type of sites those users visit and profiting off that knowledge.

Nevertheless, the recording industry’s efforts to stop illegal downloads by soliciting help from the ISPs is repugnant. Are you listening, Virgin Media? Getting a private company to enforce federal laws leads to uneven enforcement and a lack of transparency that a democratic society should abhor.

If illegal downloads are so bad, then it’s the government’s job to figure out how to police it, much like it polices the borders of Mexico and Canada in the U.S. looking for illegal activity. Like the highways that can be used to ferry drugs, cheap souvenirs and maple syrup, the Internet delivers pirated music, emails and photos of grandchildren. If illegal music is so harmful, then politicians need to direct their time and effort to stopping it — and risk whatever censure voters give them.