These people have to be stupid to think you can sit there looking at a PC screen connected to a network of computers that you don't own or control happily viewing and saving illegal material and not get caught doing so. You're creating your own trail every time you log on. It leads from you to the sites you visit to the files you download.
Even if you delete the files from your system, they're still there to be retrieved. Even if you clear your cache and delete all the URLs from your history folder, the ISP will have logs of your traffic. If you're surfing from work your system administrator will probably be able to tell you exact times and sites visited from your log-in.
Sadly it seems the government's administration select committee (see ISPs should be licensed says report) feels that increased capture rates mean there is an increased offender rate to match. Since we're catching so many more offenders surely, so the theory goes, there must be more people offending in the first place.
I would question that logic. All an increased rate of capture means is there are more people getting caught. I think the police and Department of Internal Affairs Censorship Compliance Unit need a round of applause for their efforts. Good on ya. Let's get these pictures off the streets and lets get the offenders behind bars.
What we don't need is to change tack and try to pin the ISPs with the responsibility for stopping objectionable material. Frankly it's ridiculous and based on a faulty premise: that if you own the network you're responsible for everything that goes on in it.
Let's consider the roads - another infrastructure similar to the internet. If I crash my car while driving on the road while drunk, should the roading company that built the road be held liable? What about the company that built my car? What about the tyre manufacturers or the petrol company or the guy that taught me to drive? What about the company that sold me the alcohol?
I'm responsible. I've chosen to take a perfectly ordinary device and turn it into something illegal.
Holding the ISPs liable for the content on their servers is kind of like going after the guys that make the paper that objectionable material is printed on. It's targeting the wrong point in the chain.
Currently ISPs help the Department of Internal Affairs whenever they're presented with a warrant. They hand over logs and traffic records which are then used to either prosecute the offender or confirm that person's innocence. This is a good way of working with the ISPs - making them criminals isn't going to help solve the problem of objectionable material online. A code of practice is a good idea anyway, but one enforced on ISPs from on high isn't going to make a blind bit of difference without some kind of penalty regime as well, and that's all going to cost money.
Money that could be better spent on education, on combatting the effects of such objectionable material.
It's time to stand up and be counted on this one - contact your local MP or better still, write to one of the select committee members - Dianne Yates is the chair. The report can be read here.