July 24, 2009 | Jim Killock

Kang-Karoo courts: guilt by accusation, punishment without trial

Largely away from public attention, Karoo in Hull have been operating a ‘three strikes’ policy with the tacit support of rights holders.

Without any legal intervention or right of appeal, Karoo have been disconnecting users and forcing them to promise not to infringe copyright. They have been charging for reconnection on the second and third ‘offence’.

They then consider permanent disconnection: and with no other telecoms company in Hull, this may mean no internet access for some of those disconnected.

None of this takes place through a court. The ‘evidence’ is not examined and cannot be disputed. Users have to accept responsibility for the alleged infringements in order to be reconnected.

This can take place, according to Karoo, because users have signed an agreement which precludes infringing copyright.

Open Rights Group wants to know more from the rights holders who presumably are supplying information about alleged copyright infringers to Karoo. Do they support this policy of disconnection? Are they happy for users to have their legal rights circumvented? Why are they supporting this approach in Hull rather than the letter writing campaigns they have engaged with elsewhere?

There is a basic question of proportionality. A teenager who downloads a song with a purchase value of under a pound may cause their parent’s job or businesses to be disrupted. Copyright infringement could easily lead to loss of a citizen’s ability to partake in political action organised online.

There’s also a strong element of bullying. By signing an indemnity and promising not to infringe copyright in the future, users are being asked to do something impossible. You cannot tell what’s legal to download or watch by looking at the file. Even the providers themselves can get it wrong – that’s why copyright cases go to court.

Why are Karoo able to get away with such an unreasonable regime? Largely because they are a monopoly in Hull. There are no alternative providers, so users just have to put up with it. And judging from a number of forums, they are riled.

There is one thing we can be grateful for. This experiment shows exactly how harsh and unreasonable copyright enforcement online looks: we urge Karoo users to complain to Karoo, and their MPs, that their human rights are being bypassed.


Karoo have shifted their policy, but are still threatening disconnection: they will send "three written notifications before their service is temporarily suspended". We reiterate that guilt and sanctions are a matter for the courts. This is an especially important principle for Karoo, whose monopoly position means users have to use their service and accept their policies.


Karoo has now decided it will only cut off the service if a court orders it to do so.

"We will provide customers with up to three written notifications to make them aware that a copyright owner has alleged that their internet account has been used to infringe their copyrighted material, and that the copyright owner may wish to take further action," ... "If the copyright owner obtains an order from the court requiring us to take any action, we will comply with the terms of the order. Our new policy, whilst still taking the issues of copyright infringement and illegal internet activity seriously, reflects the approach taken by many ISPs,"
ZDNet has more details

Comments (33)

  1. David:
    Aug 10, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    alastair, I would hardly call non-commercial copyright infringement a cause of "suffering". At best, it leads to an increase in sales, at worst it leads to a decline in sales. Either way, the punishment does not fit the crime.

  2. PPUK – Why the Price of Justice is Too High for File-Sharing:
    Aug 23, 2009 at 08:21 AM

    [...] Already, one UK minister said that a so-called “three strikes” law is too draconian back in June, but more recently, a UK ISP tried to institute their own three strikes law. That case caused the Open Rights Group to describe the three strikes regime as ““Guilt by accusation, punishment without trial“. [...]

  3. jams:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 02:40 PM

    Jim I posted this to boingboing. Perhaps they can appeal for a letter from a disconectee.

    Did you ask the BBC journalist if they had a copy?
    Can you should out for hull natives to put the word around?

    I believe we need to tell people our needs as digital citizens.
    We need a European digital rights charter.

    A connection should like a home tenancy afford certain rights such as Habeus Corpus and a fair trial.

    No disconnection without trial.

  4. paul:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 02:52 PM

    good for karoo stopping these "theifs" accounts they should also report them to the police and fine them too!!!!!!

  5. alastair:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 02:47 PM

    These complaints are ridiculous. Almost all ISPs, without exception, have a set of Terms of Service that says you mustn't use their service for copyright infringement otherwise they reserve the right to terminate service.

    It is certainly true that allegations of copyright infringement need to be considered carefully, but the fact remains that this is an issue of contract law pure and simple. If you breach the terms and conditions of a contract, the other party is entitled to activate the clauses of that contract that pertain to such a breach. They don't have to go to a court to do it — instead, *you* have to go to court to force them not to, if you think you have been wronged, and *they* will want to be careful not to invoke such clauses unless they're sure their actions will stand up in court. And that's how it should be.

    And while I have some sympathy with the argument that it's possible that copyright holders might make a false allegation or get their facts wrong, Karoo almost certainly has plenty of information at its disposal that it can check against the alleged incident to see whether things tally up. And as I said, Karoo has a motivation to ensure that it makes reasonable efforts to check allegations of infringement before acting on them.

    Moreover, it's not unlikely that the people complaining about this are actually the subject of *multiple* complaints of infringement. I mean, people don't just upload/download a single infringing file, usually; they'll download many of them, and the complaints will happen some time later when the copyright holder catches up with what's going on.

    Further, I don't have *any* sympathy with the "but I had an open wireless network", "but I was running an open proxy" or "but my machine was infected" defence. If you are doing those things or allowing your machine to be infected, you are behaving in an incredibly antisocial manner. Paedophile websites are run on infected machines or via open proxies. Spam is sent via such systems (including pornographic spam, and let's remember that spammers don't care who it goes to; your four year old child is just as good a target as you are in that respect). Credit card fraud is run via such systems.

    None of this stuff is rocket science, but unfortunately it hasn't been explained properly to the public that they *need* to take responsibility for their machine and network because if it is abused, OTHER PEOPLE WILL SUFFER.

  6. Karoo Chooses to Start Three-Strikes | Software Cooperative News:
    Aug 08, 2009 at 08:23 AM

    [...] will someone take these Kang-Karoo courts to a real court for breach of contract, or for abuse of their Hull [...]

  7. David:
    Aug 10, 2009 at 01:00 PM

    @Ronnie Biggs, you're right: theft is theft. But we're talking about copyright infringement (presumably filesharing).

  8. Andrew:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 10:28 AM

    Utterly disgraceful. If for instance your network is breached and the individual downloads an illegal file, you are disconnected for it. Without warning. The letter arrives in the post days later and forces you to produce a signature guaranteeing that it won't happen again and that the 'file in question has been removed'. If somebody else has gained access, you are therefore forced to lie, as you cannot possibly remove the file from their computer.

    The department that handles the reconnection are not contactable by phone or e-mail, your only point of contact is the post which you send back to them, or fax. Disconnections of weeks have been known despite the letter being signed and sent back within a day of receipt.

    There's no competition, they seem to be able to do what they like.

  9. Glyn Moody (glynmoody) 's status on Friday, 24-Jul-09 09:29:36 UTC - Identi.ca:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 10:30 AM

    [...] http://www.openrightsgroup.org/2009/07/kang-karoo-courts-guilt-by-accusation-punishment-without-tri... [...]

  10. Jim Killock:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 12:15 PM

    Andrew, we'd really like to see the letter and form that users are being sent. As of yesterday, Karoo weren't happy to make it available to us.

  11. Phil:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 03:15 PM

    Karoo has been doing this for at least 7 years.

    What actually happens is Company X works on behalf of companies A, B and C to protect their copyrights and scans P2P for the IP address of the people sharing the content and reports it to that persons ISP. In this case Karoo flicks a switch and turns off that users Internet connection.

    The current policy of Karoo as far as I know is:
    First Offence - Cut off and reconnection after a letter of apology
    Second Offence - Reconnection after a £30 fine and a letter of apology (money probably goes to Karoo only).
    Third - Your banned from the service for a length on time (I forget how long)

  12. James:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 03:08 PM

    The letter karoo sends comes with 3 pages.

    First page, explains whats happend whys you've been disconnected

    Second page, shows what the file is that was downloaded, at what time and the port number used in the client.

    Third page, basically has 2/3 lines saying. I agree that the file(s) has been deleted from my PC. Failure to remove the file and detection will result to further disconnections. Reconnection will hen cost.

    Then you have to print and sign.

    Its all rather stupid and infact illegal i do believe, we tried telling them that admission to guilt or basically lying about deleteing a file that isn't thre. But wouldn't listen.

    Oh and you do still gt charged when disconnected, ask people on www.Karooforums.net

  13. Ian:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 03:26 PM

    I take alistairs and pauls points, and the legal situation in contract law must be maintained or we will get the situation where anyone can do anything through a service which you provide, and as the service provider you will be able to do nothing about it. The difference here is that Karoo are the ONLY service provider and if by some unwitting breach (i.e. another family member has done this without your knowledge, and please don't give me the lecture about knowing about what your kids maybe into on the PC because I'm talking about adult kids over the age of 18 downloading stuff) Then you have no other place to turn.You cannot go to another provider until it's sorted out. You are cut off period. That's why getting this decision against you right or wrong in Hull can be so devistating, especially if you are running a business through the web. Not wanting to digress from the real issue here, but the core problem is that ISP provision in Hull is a monopoly and the company acts like it. For example on their telecoms side they now charge £1 for a paper telephone statment. Not much you might think BUT as they are the only provider of landlines and internet they are basically saying that you must sign up to our internet service to get your bill on line or we will chgarge you £1. Who are going to get hit with this? OAP's and the people who cannot afford to have the internet connected.In other words the most vulnerable. Do you think they would get away with that if they were in competetion? not likely people would move to another provider in droves. This is the type of company you are dealing with here. So don't get too moralistic about what they are "trying to protect us from" all they are really doing is trying to protect their monopoly

  14. jams:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 03:55 PM

    Alistair you are makeing so many unwarranted assumptions about regular people the situation I assume you are a troll. If not please read up on the accuracy of such allegations and media sentry type investigations - it is very low, dot matrix printers have accused by ip address of downloading movies. Obscurity by spoofing millions of random IPs is common pirate practice and lying to media sentry ip address hoovers is a sport for many on 4chan and the like.

    That anyone could even argue for this practice....facepalms.

    Blackmail, Coercion and punitive fines for unproven allegations which even if true would not establish the connection owners guilt or knowledge.

    This situation is so bizarre and evil I find it difficult to believe it has continued for 7 years.

    Perhaps a small claims court action by a disconectee ?
    Only costs £ 35
    It made the banks pay back charges.

    Does the ORG have lawyers like the EFF ?

  15. J D:
    Jul 26, 2009 at 08:59 PM

    It also looks like this ISP is enforcing or trying to enforce "Unfair Terms & Conditions", it might be worth seeking advice.

    The more people supply a legitimate grievance to the right quarters the more likely it is to be investigated.


  16. UK ISP Institutes “Three-Strikes” On Its Own « SmashFuse:
    Jul 27, 2009 at 06:02 PM

    [...] Karoo, because users have signed an agreement which precludes infringing copyright,” reads a statement by the [...]

  17. jams:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 03:36 PM

    http://www.reddit.com/user/jams12398/ - REDDITED

  18. pragmaar:
    Jul 27, 2009 at 09:29 AM

    I think end users should boycott ISPs that force this way of protecting corporations... there are always other ISPs we can use. internet is free and should stay that way..

  19. Karoo disconnect Illegal file sharers without warning in Hull:
    Jul 27, 2009 at 12:18 PM

    [...] their own policy to mirror this since the whole news even got attention from the Open Right Group (view here). They said that customers would from now receive three warning letters before they had their [...]

  20. UK ISP Institutes “Three-Strikes” On Its Own:
    Jul 27, 2009 at 06:09 AM

    [...] Karoo, because users have signed an agreement which precludes infringing copyright,” reads a statement by the [...]

  21. barry shirr:
    Jul 25, 2009 at 07:14 PM

    dishing out their own brand of justice with no evidence ? sounds like WWII concentration camps ! residents of hull, burn those gistapo karoo directors houses to the ground, preferably with their occupants still inside ! if nothing else, at least it'll put hull on the map !

  22. Chris Harrison:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 10:35 PM

    I have to deal with Karoo's terrible service, and I have to say I'm sick of it too. If given the chance, I think everyone within Hull would leave it because of how terrible it is. Only now do people realise how bad our provider is, but it's been terrible for a very long time. I've had my internet shut off for 5 days straight for "regular maintenance", and when it came back on, there was no change. The internet can go off for "maintenance" for hours and without any warning, and when the internet is on, it's very slow, I get alot of lag with online games. Their service is very poor, and they charge stupid amounts, with a new package that means you have a download limit, and if you go over, even by a KB, you have to pay an extra £1 for each GB. They also attempt to trick you into thinking you need one of these new packages, when you don't, sadly my family were.

    I think personally Karoo is a terrible service and have crossed the line, and I feel we should be allowed to switch from them, because no one wants to put up with how they treat internet users now.

  23. illegal downloader:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 09:21 PM

    I was accused of downloading and distributing copyrighted software and had my service suspended. I was asked to sign a confession. I refused and wrote to the CEO threatening legal action. I pointed out that the alleged offence was committed when the house was empty. It turned out that my router credentials had been compromised.

    Within 24 hours, I received a personal call from an extremely apologetic top executive at kingston comms. My service was restored immediately and they accepted that I was totally innocent.

    However, he pointed out that their was some reasoning behind their pro-activity. It seems that a firm of ambulance chasing lawyers are in the process of collecting evidence with a view to building a series of class action lawsuits against ISP'S and individuals. He claimed that Karoo was only trying to protect itself from charges of negligence. Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending Karoo, but people need to beware the potential consequences of illegal distribution.

  24. Ronnie Biggs:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 07:42 PM

    Theft is theft. Imagine if your neighbour saw someone stealing from your house and said we didn't get involved because it not for us to secure your house and we didn't know if they were acting legally or not so we left them. Would you turn around and say well you did the right thing I wouldn't want you harming an innocent persons human rights. It's the same thing here, someone is using that connection to steal so why not take that line down and stop any further theft.
    If you walk outside your house and your cars missing do you call the Police or shrug your shoulders and accept that TWOCers have the right to drive the same as everyone else? Just because it's a company that these thefts occur from don't change your attitudes. If these thefts took money out of your pocket you'd want it stopped.

  25. jams:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 08:03 PM

    @aleister & @ronniebiggs
    lame trolling guys ha ha - of course everyone is guilty people are naturally bad* yawn. and copyright infringement is theft * yawn and butter is margerine.

    Well we have a rumour of a climbdown by the ISP, I still think anyone who was disconnected and inconvenienced should take them to the small claims court.

    No matter your level of IP maximalism I think any sane person will agree this company went far too far and abused its monopoly.

    Imagine being unable to get an internet connection unless you sign a confession to bittorrenting some movie.

    No internet, that is not just an inconvenience

    The regulator ought to look at this, and questions should be asked. If any campaign is going further I will be glad to help.

    This sort of idiocy will destroy the new digital economy just like the 'rights organisations' are destroying their own industries.

  26. J D:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 08:18 PM

    @Ronnie Biggs

    You prove the point I want to make, THEY ARE NOT THE POLICE!

    If they have evidence of wrongdoing their evidence should be sent to the Police, along with other information such as how & why they gather such details since these details would not be normally be covered by "monitoring for Network traffic related purposes".

    Given this situation I could send a randomly named file to a friend in Hull, not knowing that particular filename was listed as dodgy by the ISP & inadvertently get that person fined banned or disconnected which is unacceptable!

    They are acting like "vigilantes" & "proof positive" is required before actions like this are taken, so I consider in this case the Open Rights Group should call this ISP a Kangaroo Court ISP!

  27. Ken Miller:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 05:11 PM


    Simply wow.

    I was planning on moving to Hull to set up a new business. Based on Karoos actions, and the fact that they are the only dsl provider there, I certainly won't be!

    Well done Karoo. I wonder how many other people thinking about moving to the area will now reconsider based on your kangaroo court approach?

  28. Kang-Karoo Court « CyberTech Rambler:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 05:57 PM

    [...] Kang-Karoo Court Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:56 pm A ISP in Hull did a very stupid thing: Disconnect its user when there is an allegation of  copyright infringement and make them sign a good behaviour pledge to get reconnected. ( TheRegister’s news coverage here) Unfortunately for them, their names lead Open Rights Group to call operating  a “Kang-Karoo Court“ [...]

  29. cowbutt:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 04:43 PM

    I emailed KCOM/Karoo:

    As a customer of a KCOM group ISP, I would like to register my disapproval
    of Karoo's apparently policy of disconnecting users with no legal process,
    or right of appeal if they are accused of copyright infringment.

    I'm partially responsible for handling abuse@ complaints for my employer,
    and know only too well that sometimes the complaints are insufficiently
    detailed or wholly inaccurate. If an attempt is made to introduce similar
    policies throughout KCOM group ISPs, I will need to consider whether to
    remain a customer.

    They replied:

    Thank you for completing on our online feedback form.

    There has been a great deal of reaction to the Hull Daily Mail article
    about Karoo and how we handle illegal downloads.

    In light of this customer feedback, we have taken the decision to adopt
    a softer approach and we are bringing our approach into line with the
    other major ISPs.

    We hope our action reassures you that we do listen to our customers.

  30. alastair:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 04:38 PM

    FWIW, BT also charges for paper bills these days. And for not paying by Direct Debit too, I think.

    I also have a bit of sympathy with the predicament of not being able to switch to an alternative ISP, given that we're talking about Hull here.

    No, I'm not making "unwarranted assumptions", and I'm well aware that the pirates are trying to muddy the waters by intentionally listing random IP addresses in various places, thereby exacerbating the problem of false allegations from some quarters.

    That, of course, does not mean that none of the accused are guilty or that all allegations of infringement are false or without reasonable evidence. Nor does it mean that Karoo can't use its own judgement and examine the evidence presented to it to determine whether, in its reasonable opinion, its contract has been breached.

    If you are in a position where you think your connection has been unfairly disconnected or they have breached a term of their contract, you can indeed take them to court. Small claims court would work just fine, I think.

    I don't expect to see many such cases though, because the majority of those accused of infringement are most likely guilty, and there is a very real risk involved in going to court in that case, because if asked directly whether they has infringed copyright, they would either have to perjure themselves (a serious criminal offence carrying a substantial jail term, even in a small claims court) or admit it in open court (thus leaving them open to prosecution for wilful infringement).

  31. jams:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 02:32 PM

    Surely this is illegal.
    Are there no standards for operating an ISP.
    People run business from home.

    Can you find out what Rights Organisations are involved ? Is it just movie companies or can religious organisations fearful of criticism apply?
    Can you write to Kelkoo as the owner of a copyrighted web page to request some disconections for instance.

    Doesn't this violate the recent EU law especially as Karoo appear to be a local monopoly at least for many users.

    This is the most shocking abuse of human rights I have heard of.

    I tried to join but £5 a month is too much at the present time, can you have a concession membership of £2 a month. Anyway I signed up for your newsletter.

  32. alastair:
    Jul 24, 2009 at 04:48 PM

    @Jim Killock:
    "We reiterate that guilt and sanctions are a matter for the courts."

    This is not about guilt and sanctions. It's about contract law. In the context of contract law, the parties themselves are not constrained from acting without the say so of a judge - nor should they be - but they have the option to ask a civil court (or some other arbiter, by mutual agreement) to consider their situation if they are unhappy and cannot resolve the matter between themselves.

    I think there is a very real attempt on the part of some to conflate all of this with criminal and human rights law, which have almost nothing whatsoever to do with it.

  33. John:
    Jan 23, 2010 at 02:13 PM

    Why are we in the Hull area forced to have only one provider. The cost of the services are 40% higher than leading providers. The service is so poor it impossible to measure against those of main streem UK.

    The goverment has set targets to have all homes connected to the internet and yet they allow this to happen to the population of Hull.

    Why is their no investigtion in to Kingston Communications?

    I think the answer is an easy one just like the political fuss over expenses and bankers back pocket payments we are only told the basics. Look in to who is making the money and you will see why this matter is never given the push it needs.

    If this was a 3rd world country the papers would never have it out of their front page. So were is the support from MPs and national papers to get a fair deal for the Hull Public.

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