Illegal downloaders will be disconnected - eventually

28 Oct 2009 View Comments
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The government is to update copyright laws

Business secretary Lord Mandelson today laid out the government's definitive approach for tackling illegal downloading online.

Speaking at a creative industries conference today, Mandelson said that illegal downloaders would eventually be cut off from the internet, if other technical measures – including reducing bandwidth and imposing download caps – failed.

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“We will establish a fair and thorough process, involving clear warnings to people suspected of unlawful file-sharing, with technical measures such as account suspension used only as a last resort," said Mandelson.

"Only persistent rule breakers would be affected, and there would be an independent, clear and easy appeals process to ensure that the correct infringer is penalised."

The government will look to introduce the legislation in the next session of parliament.

Illegal downloading is a huge problem for the creative industries, with only one in every 20 tracks downloaded in the UK being done so lawfully.

The government hopes that warning notifications, followed by targeted legal action by rights holders, will significantly reduce the level of unlawful file-sharing, with technical measures used only as a last resort.

Disconnection is controversial. A court in France has already made internet access a human right and the European Commission is currently considering whether to adopt a similar policy.

ISPs would be required to implement any technical measures, a move they have long argued against through industry body the ISP Association (ISPA).

"ISPA is extremely disappointed that government intends to legislate to force the disconnection of users based on a notice – a move that is contrary to many of the aims of Digital Britain," said Nicholas Lansman, ISPA Secretary General.

"ISPs and consumer groups consider disconnection of users to be a disproportionate response – a view that has been supported by the European Parliament."

ISPs also say that the lack of presumption of innocence, and the absence of judicial process combined with the widespread nature of wifi hijacking, will result in innocent people being disconnected for downloading.

A review today headed up by intellectual property minister David Lammy found that there was a case for copyright laws to be modernised to reflect reasonable consumer behaviour which did not damage the sustainability of the creative industries.

"This is not an excuse to infringe copyright through unlawful file-sharing; it is about being able to do more with legally obtained content, such as remixing music and mashing up content to create grime and hip-hop tracks," said Lammy.

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