Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Action on unlawful P2P file-sharing

New ideas to allow for swifter and more flexible measures to tackle unlawful peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing are published today by the Government.

The Government is seeking views on the idea of including a power, under the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, for the Secretary of State to direct Ofcom to introduce technical measures to clamp down on piracy, if necessary.

This would involve an obligation on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to take action against individual, repeat infringers - for example by blocking access to download sites, reducing broadband speeds, or by temporarily suspending the individual’s Internet account.

Evidence on whether such action is required would be provided in regular reports from Ofcom to the Secretary of State.

Previously, it had been proposed that Ofcom would undergo a detailed process in order to ascertain that technical measures were required. With this approach, the earliest that measures could come into play was during 2012. The Government has now reached the view that, if action was deemed necessary, this might be too long to wait given the pressure put on the creative industries by piracy. The new ideas outlined today would potentially allow action to be taken earlier.

The Government is also considering adding account suspension to the list of technical measures that could be used only as a last resort against the hard core of copyright pirates.

To enable stakeholders to provide feedback on the new ideas, the Government has today issued an explanatory statement and extended the current consultation on unlawful P2P file sharing to 29 September. Responses received so far will still be given full consideration.

Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms said:

“Technology and consumer behaviour is fast-changing and it’s important that Ofcom has the flexibility to respond quickly to deal with unlawful file-sharing.

“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.

“So we look forward to hearing views on our new ideas, which along with those already received, will help us determine the best way to tackle this complex challenge.”

After listening to views from all sides, the Government is also seeking views on how the costs of the process should be covered. It proposes that some costs, such as the operating costs of sending out notifications and Ofcom’s costs as the Regulator, should be shared equally between ISPs and rights holders.

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