Legislation on data protection and online content invariably provokes confusion. When it comes to reselling internet services, issues arising from this legislation can be even more bewildering.
Take, for example, copyright infringement. Internet service providers (ISPs) are often contacted by outside parties that believe they are hosting content that contravenes copyright laws.
The host then usually attempts to contact the website owner to ask it to comply with copyright laws, which may involve removing illegal content. If the owner does not comply, the host can simply pull the plug.
This is easy when there is a direct relationship with the website owner, but what happens if the host does not know who owns the site because that information is held by the reseller?
In this instance, host and reseller must establish clear guidelines on how websites are taken down in response to complaints.
A conscientious ISP will publish a policy setting out how customers can use its network and under what circumstances a service will be suspended.
Resellers must be informed as they will need to communicate these procedures to their customers. In addition, the ISP and reseller should jointly establish a procedure for taking down a user's site. It is important that both parties agree at the outset which one will take responsibility.
Under data protection laws, customer-facing businesses are required to have a policy for processing and storing customer data. In the channel model, this becomes more complicated because a service provider often needs to store the data of the reseller's customers.
Reseller agreements should indicate how both parties will process end-user data, and resellers must issue contracts that inform customers that their details will be passed to a third party.
Resellers are understandably wary of the increased paperwork associated with ensuring that their channel agreements take the data protection laws and other legislation into account.
But this is not about bureaucracy, it's about being properly protected. A concrete agreement is not something resellers should fear; in fact, they should ask for one if nothing is offered. These types of agreements ensure best practice and protection for all links in the chain.
Steve Cross is sales and channel director at Via Networks UK and Ireland.
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