UK Government fast tracks anti-piracy proposals

September 2009


The UK Government has announced a significant change in it’s anti-piracy policy putting forward new proposals that would mean that internet users who persist in swapping copyrighted films and music will have their connections cut off .The new measures also include taking the power to target illegal downloaders away from regulator Ofcom and giving it to ministers to speed up the process. The new moves are a major shift away from the proposals set out in Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report which suggested a mixture of warnings to illegal filesharers, technical measures to combat piracy and the ultimate sanction of slowing down persistent filesharer’s broadband connections – but nothing would be done until 2012 giving Ofcom the chance to reduce online piracy by a target of 70%-80%. Digital Britain is still in it’s consultation phase although the six biggest UK-based internet service providers (ISPs) had agreed to enter into a voluntary memorandum of understanding with the record companies, and started sending out warning letters to the customers the record industry believed were the biggest illegal file-sharers. Now the government has said that now illegal filesharers will get warning letters but if they continue to swap copyrighted material they could have their internet connection temporarily severed, although it may be possible to retain basic access to online public services. The surprise move will intensify speculation that Lord Mandelson reached a secret deal to protect the film and music industries after a private dinner with music and film mogul David Geffen earlier this month in Corfu, something his Department have denied. The reaction from ISPs was understandably one of annoyance, not least as they will be expected to foot the cost of technical measures the content industry will continue to pick up the tab for identifying illegal filesharers and preparing enough information for them to be targeted by the ISPs. The costs of the letter-writing campaign will be split equally. Communications minister Stephen Timms said “We’ve been listening carefully to responses to the consultation this far, and it’s become clear there are widespread concerns that the plans as they stand could delay action, impacting unfairly upon rights holders”. The Internet Service Providers’ Association responded to the new initiative saying “ISPA and consumer groups consider disconnection of users to be a disproportionate response, a view that was recently supported by the European Parliament”.

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