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Ofcom publishes three-strikes copyright code

Ofcom publishes three-strikes copyright code

Ofcom's draft code will see those accused of copyright infringement sent three warning letters before being turned over to the courts.

Ofcom, the UK regulatory body for the communications industry, has published a draft code for consultation which would introduce a 'three-strikes' rule for alleged copyright infringement in the UK.

Announced today, Ofcom's draft guidance - required as part of the Digital Economy Act legislation passed in 2010 - is designed to strike a balance between the rights of the accused and protecting the interests of the copyright holders by allowing a certain leeway before the full weight of the law comes bearing down on alleged ne'er-do-wells.

Initially, the proposed code would apply to ISPs with more than 400,000 broadband-enabled fixed-line customers - currently only BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, who account for a claimed 93 per cent of the UK retail broadband market - and require those ISPs to send letters to customers, at least a month apart, alerting them to complaints of copyright infringement on their account.

Should a customer receive three letters or more within the space of a year, the code requires the ISP to provide 'anonymous information' on request to copyright owners showing them which infringement reports have been linked to that particular customer's account. Should the copyright holder then want to take the matter forward, a court order releasing the customer's identity would be required - to be followed by legal action under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

That's the same law used to drag alleged copyright scofflaws through the courts now, but Ofcom's proposed code would allow rights holders to focus their efforts on only persistent problem customers. That said, however, the code would not require rights holders to go through the ISP's three-strikes ruling: an application for a court order could be made at any time, although if a rights holder doesn't follow the code it could be turned down by a judge.

The broad terms of the code are largely unchanged from those from the original 2010 consultation, but some of the details have changed. In particular, evidence of alleged infringement must now be gathered according to procedures approved by Ofcom rather than by the rights holders themselves, while the rights of those seeking to appeal an instance of alleged infringement must now do so only on grounds specified in the Digital Economy Act. Previously, appeals based on any grounds at all were acceptable.

'These measures are designed to foster investment and innovation in the UK's creative industries, while ensuring internet users are treated fairly and given help to access lawful content,' claimed Claudio Pollack at the announcement of Ofcom's draft consultation. 'Ofcom will oversee a fair appeals process, and also ensure that rights holders' investigations under the code are rigorous and transparent.'

Ofcom has asked for a stay of execution on the other terms of the Digital Economy Act - which allows for alleged infringers to have their internet access bandwidth-limited or even cut off completely without the need to trouble a court - until the proposed code has been in place for at least a year, to judge its efficacy.

The code comes at a real cost for ISPs: according to Ofcom's calculations, each letter sent to a customer could cost an ISP up to £17. With Ofcom predicting that ISPs will be asked to send letters at a rate of 70,000 or more a month, that's a bill of over £14 million a year that the ISPs' customers will have to foot.

Following a consultation period, Ofcom will be laying the code in parliament by the end of the year. Following approval, the code will be put in place over 2013 with Ofcom working to establish an appeals body, with the first infringement warnings due to arrive on unlucky customers' doorsteps some time in early 2013. The full consultation document can be downloaded from Ofcom's website.

41 Comments

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Phil Rhodes 26th June 2012, 11:56 Quote
If a company can find a way to make writing a letter cost seventeen quid, that's their problem.
loftie 26th June 2012, 12:05 Quote
Holy crap, £17 a letter. Right guys, I have an idea for a new business......
Phil Rhodes 26th June 2012, 12:07 Quote
And - hang on - this is an ISP. You don't possibly think that there would be some free-of-charge letter-analogue they could use, that can be autogenerated at the touch of a button and sent to the user?

Perhaps using some sort of electronic... postal... thing? You could call it, I don't know... e-post?
Gareth Halfacree 26th June 2012, 12:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
And - hang on - this is an ISP. You don't possibly think that there would be some free-of-charge letter-analogue they could use, that can be autogenerated at the touch of a button and sent to the user? Perhaps using some sort of electronic... postal... thing? You could call it, I don't know... e-post?
It's a legal notification - it *has* to be in a physical format. Them's the laws.
Phil Rhodes 26th June 2012, 12:15 Quote
Then change the law.
wuyanxu 26th June 2012, 12:23 Quote
what if the email ends up in your spam box, or if you never check your broadband email account?
samkiller42 26th June 2012, 12:24 Quote
£17 is about right given the cost of stamps these days.

Sam
Gareth Halfacree 26th June 2012, 12:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
Then change the law.
If I could unilaterally change the law, I think I'd probably start elsewhere. I'd introduce the Halfacree Tax, for a start: 10% flat tax on everyone's income, deposited straight into my bank account. (I'd be exempt, obviously: otherwise it'd tax 10% of the tax, then 10% of that 10%, then 10% of that 10%...)
TheDodoKiller 26th June 2012, 12:24 Quote
So with the letters thing, it's a bit like paying to go to prison, no?
BLC 26th June 2012, 12:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
It's a legal notification - it *has* to be in a physical format. Them's the laws.

Exactly. Personally, if there's a chance that I may have to go to court, or I'm being sent a formal legal notification, I'd rather get an actual phyiscal letter than an email.

And in terms of the cost, £17 doesn't sound like an unreasonable figure. You have to factor in the cost of printing machines, staff costs, maintenance costs, postage costs, etc... The materials themselves might be cheap, but the infrastructure required to support it isn't cheap; we're not exactly talking about a guy sat at a desk with a laser printer here.
Phil Rhodes 26th June 2012, 12:42 Quote
You misunderstand.

If law is causing stupidity, it is wrong. Law is not some unchangeable monolith.
Shikkari 26th June 2012, 12:49 Quote
What do they intend to do over people illegally accessing a network and downloading pirated media?

Surely the owner must have some defense against being accused even if they had nothing to do with it?
soopahfly 26th June 2012, 13:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
Then change the law.
If I could unilaterally change the law, I think I'd probably start elsewhere. I'd introduce the Halfacree Tax, for a start: 10% flat tax on everyone's income, deposited straight into my bank account. (I'd be exempt, obviously: otherwise it'd tax 10% of the tax, then 10% of that 10%, then 10% of that 10%...)

So a bit like the Duty/VAT on Fuel then?
warejon9 26th June 2012, 13:03 Quote
So they're charging £17 quid a letter, so even if your not doing anything wrong you're going to get stung by the ISP for having to pay for all of these gold plated letters. Logic fail?
specofdust 26th June 2012, 13:18 Quote
So essentially they're going to give consumers a three month period in which to learn about encryption, VPN's, and proxies, and those who fail to get in trouble? I almost like the plan.
XXAOSICXX 26th June 2012, 14:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by warejon9
So they're charging £17 quid a letter, so even if your not doing anything wrong you're going to get stung by the ISP for having to pay for all of these gold plated letters. Logic fail?

Did you even read the article?

Nobody is charging £17 a letter. Idiot.
law99 26th June 2012, 14:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by BLC
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
It's a legal notification - it *has* to be in a physical format. Them's the laws.

Exactly. Personally, if there's a chance that I may have to go to court, or I'm being sent a formal legal notification, I'd rather get an actual phyiscal letter than an email.

And in terms of the cost, £17 doesn't sound like an unreasonable figure. You have to factor in the cost of printing machines, staff costs, maintenance costs, postage costs, etc... The materials themselves might be cheap, but the infrastructure required to support it isn't cheap; we're not exactly talking about a guy sat at a desk with a laser printer here.

Well you say that, but once the "red flag system" or whatever they want to call it is in place, it probably will be exactly that. One or two cretins printing out 3500 letters a day and then feeding a post machine with pre-paid envelopes.

But the reality is, if I was one of these businesses I'd only fire it up on inspection days... maybe the day before also to make sure it is all operational. Or at least make it a really low priority...

What would really make me laugh is if they discovered that it wasn't anywhere near 70,000 a month. I.e. 5,000 or so... then see what they do with the crazy figures that they pluck out of thin air with regards to the loss of earnings. My guess is they will not change their figures and continue to tell us how pirates are costing them.
MrJay 26th June 2012, 14:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX
Quote:
Originally Posted by warejon9
So they're charging £17 quid a letter, so even if your not doing anything wrong you're going to get stung by the ISP for having to pay for all of these gold plated letters. Logic fail?

Did you even read the article?

Nobody is charging £17 a letter. Idiot.


In an indirect way yes we are...

Think about it a 14million a month postal bill isn't a cost thats going to be absorbed by the ISP itself. More likely you will received a second letter (if any).

"Our operating costs have risen, therefore we need to pass theses costs onto you, your package cost will increse by £3.50 a month starting next month."
law99 26th June 2012, 15:03 Quote
actually just did the maths and it would add up to around £17.86 to employ 3 staff, laser printer cartidges, maintenance contract. Let alone before you add in paper, post, and machinethat suffs them <with maintenance for that also.

I can only go by what work pays though and these guys would have more serious buying power for ink and such
Anfield 26th June 2012, 15:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by law99
actually just did the maths and it would add up to around £17.86 to employ 3 staff, laser printer cartidges, maintenance contract. Let alone before you add in paper, post, and machinethat suffs them <with maintenance for that also.

The ISP doesn't have to foot the whole bill though as the Copyright holders will have to pay part of it.
Quote:
The costs consultation will be followed with a statement on the tariffs after the Code
is laid in Parliament. Once the Code is in force, we will then invite copyright owners
to commit to volumes of CIRs and will then determine the final charges they must pay
to Ofcom and to ISPs.

On another note:
Quote:
We have introduced a requirement that the gap between the date on which the
previous notification was sent and the date on which the evidence was gathered
in relation to a subsequent infringement which triggers the next notification must
be at least 20 days. This is to give the subscriber an opportunity to modify their
behaviour (or secure their connection) before a subsequent notification is sent

Lol, literally. They even write it in plain text that you can just secure your connection to avoid getting another letter.
sicone 26th June 2012, 15:24 Quote
According to the BBC, if you receive one of these letters and want to challenge it, OFCOM have decided that it will cost you £20 to do so!
specofdust 26th June 2012, 15:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sicone
According to the BBC, if you receive one of these letters and want to challenge it, OFCOM have decided that it will cost you £20 to do so!

Only way it would work. If they're sending 70,000 letters per month then they'd get 50,000 parents a month sending in objection letters after their teenager swore to them they'd never pirated. The system would increase massively in cost and break very very quickly.
law99 26th June 2012, 17:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
Only way it would work. If they're sending 70,000 letters per month then they'd get 50,000 parents a month sending in objection letters after their teenager swore to them they'd never pirated. The system would increase massively in cost and break very very quickly.

Whilst true, I'd also invite Offcom to *&%£ off to be quite frank.
steveo_mcg 26th June 2012, 17:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
Only way it would work. If they're sending 70,000 letters per month then they'd get 50,000 parents a month sending in objection letters after their teenager swore to them they'd never pirated. The system would increase massively in cost and break very very quickly.

The argument could/should be made that if that is the only way to get the system to work its is pre-broken. Even speeding tickets are free to appeal, failing that appeal will cost you but the appeal it self is free.
Sloth 26th June 2012, 20:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
Only way it would work. If they're sending 70,000 letters per month then they'd get 50,000 parents a month sending in objection letters after their teenager swore to them they'd never pirated. The system would increase massively in cost and break very very quickly.
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveo_mcg
The argument could/should be made that if that is the only way to get the system to work its is pre-broken. Even speeding tickets are free to appeal, failing that appeal will cost you but the appeal it self is free.
It's a no free lunch thing. Speeding ticket appeals may not have an up front appeal cost but you can be sure it's being paid for somehow. Likely through fuel, road, or car taxes. It would likely be possible to fund the appeal process with taxes in much the same way, they just have decided not to for whatever reason.
Cheapskate 26th June 2012, 21:29 Quote
Here's something to really make your hair stand up: How many of you have been double/triple tapped by an automated system in the past? I've seen everything from an $8,000 water bill to the IRS charging $780 for a $200 late fee.
What happens when all three strikes show up on the same day?
Posicoln 26th June 2012, 22:09 Quote
Well democracy is finishing soon - looks like we are heading back into a draconian leadership. I guess democracy had a good run, but certainly the people's voice is not being listened too by the government(s) anymore
specofdust 26th June 2012, 22:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posicoln
Well democracy is finishing soon - looks like we are heading back into a draconian leadership. I guess democracy had a good run, but certainly the people's voice is not being listened too by the government(s) anymore

I believe you may be getting direct democracy and representative democracy confused.
x5pilot 27th June 2012, 10:09 Quote
Hmm, Internet ASBO's.... could catch on!
Valinor 27th June 2012, 10:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveo_mcg
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
Only way it would work. If they're sending 70,000 letters per month then they'd get 50,000 parents a month sending in objection letters after their teenager swore to them they'd never pirated. The system would increase massively in cost and break very very quickly.

The argument could/should be made that if that is the only way to get the system to work its is pre-broken. Even speeding tickets are free to appeal, failing that appeal will cost you but the appeal it self is free.

It's the same here; if your appeal is successful then the £20 is refunded. So no overall cost to whoever was sent the letter if they can prove it was a mistake (from what I read, the only successful appeal reason is likely to be that their wifi network wasn't secure).
runadumb 27th June 2012, 11:28 Quote
What about people that house share? I mean if I got a letter and knew full well I didn't do the offense would I trust my housemates to be good or just cut off the internet? That is what really worries me, as I do house share but I am not the one with the name on the bill, but I may be very soon.
silky 27th June 2012, 13:55 Quote
This could actually improve the sorry state of modern music. But it would need to happen in other countries too for it to have much impact. It also needs to be for games too and everything else. These wild west days of people downloading whatever they want for free, really need to end in my opinion. I know a lot of people will go ape about it, but it's just not fair on people whose job it is to create entertainment and then millions of people just pinch it.
specofdust 27th June 2012, 14:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by silky
This could actually improve the sorry state of modern music. But it would need to happen in other countries too for it to have much impact. It also needs to be for games too and everything else. These wild west days of people downloading whatever they want for free, really need to end in my opinion. I know a lot of people will go ape about it, but it's just not fair on people whose job it is to create entertainment and then millions of people just pinch it.

Since I was a teenager I was hearing that piracy was killing music. Then one day it hit me what an idiotic statement this is. The recording industry has existed for maybe 100 years. Music has existed since the first man decided to hit hollow bits of tree or shout a low sound and then a high sound. You can't kill music, but you could destroy the record industry. So with this realisation made, we next have to ask ourselves: Do we think the the current record industry is a desirable model for a music industry? Further to that, do we think there could exist a worse model, or is this as bad as it gets? From there we need to start considering the possibility that perhaps the current record companies dying might be a good thing for music.

Just a thought.
NethLyn 27th June 2012, 14:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sicone
According to the BBC, if you receive one of these letters and want to challenge it, OFCOM have decided that it will cost you £20 to do so!

Setting the challenge cost higher than the price of any Blu Ray or single CD seems fair (though for a brand new console game which is still at least a tenner more people will still take the chance).

If you get a mistaken challenge you can also send in your extracted receipt from Amazon/iTunes/any other webshop where you bought your CDs or did your legit MP3 downloading, or in the case of the BBC itself the TV Licence for that address (not that they make much that's worth pirating nowadays). Case goes away.

Just pay the damn money for your media and spare me the intellectual arguments about piracy not equalling stealing stuff.
CarlT2001 27th June 2012, 14:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by NethLyn
Just pay the damn money for your media and spare me the intellectual arguments about stealing stuff.

Good job Feathers is banned at the moment then!!!
specofdust 27th June 2012, 14:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlT2001
Good job Feathers is banned at the moment then!!!

Feathers will not be rejoining us.
NethLyn 27th June 2012, 14:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlT2001
Good job Feathers is banned at the moment then!!!

Thanks for pointing that out Carl, have edited as my rant implied I didn't think piracy was stealing, when I do. This of course excludes when a games company gives away an oldie from 10 years ago to promote the new sequel as with CnC, or there's a free track to promote an album, etc.
specofdust 27th June 2012, 14:53 Quote
You do understand that stealing and breach of copyright are fundamentally different acts though, right? That doesn't inform upon morality of either, but they are distinct acts.
towelie 27th June 2012, 17:55 Quote
Whens the purposed go live date?
MagR 28th June 2012, 14:03 Quote
Any attempt at regulation of the computer industry by a government body/quango is doomed to failure because they are technically incompetent. See all recent government IT projects.
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