Illegal downloaders to be cut off by UK ISPs

Written by Tim Smalley

February 12, 2008 // 2:31 p.m.

Tags: #cut #downloaders #downloading #file #government #illegal #internet #isps #laws #off #p2p #providers #service #sharing #torrent #uk

The British Government has drafted plans that would demand Internet Service Providers to cut off users that illegally download music and films if they are caught, according to legislative proposals obtained by The Times.

The new proposal will be unveiled next week and will require ISPs to give suspected illegal downloaders "three strikes".

Users found to be illegally downloading media will first receive an email warning. This will then be followed by a suspension for the second infringement and if they're caught a third time, the user's contract will be terminated.

It's not clear at the moment whether ISPs will share information on offenders, but it's estimated that at least six million broadband users illegally download files from the Internet annually in the UK alone. The music and film industries claim that this is costing billions of pounds in lost revenue every year.

Both the US and France are already in the process of implementing similar laws and, according to The Times, this has put increasing pressure on both the UK ISPs and the Government to take action. The UK's four biggest ISPs have been in talks with the entertainment industry about a potential voluntary scheme, but no agreement has been reached at this time.

The proposal is not without its problems though – the first involves innocent users being victims of WiFi piggybacking, where filesharers use someone else's Internet connection to illegally download (and share) copyrighted media. In that situation, does the law-abiding Internet user get their connection pulled? There are other outstanding problems too, at least from the Internet Service Provider's perspective, include how many enforcements they are expected to start and how quickly warnings would be sent to offenders.

What's more, there are threats that ISPs which fail to enforce the regime are liable for prosecution. A spokesperson from the Internet Service Providers Association said that data protection laws would stop ISPs from closely monitoring the data sent over their networks – do you really want your ISP monitoring passwords to your Internet Banking Service for example?

"ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope," said the spokesperson. "ISPs bear no liability for illegal file sharing as the content is not hosted on their servers."

"We welcome the signal from Government that it values the health of the creative industries and takes seriously the damage caused by widespread copyright infringement," said Roz Groome, vice president of antipiracy at NBC Universal. "We call upon ISPs to take action now. They must play their part in the fight against online piracy and work with rights owners to ensure that ISPs' customers do not use their services for illegal activity. Piracy stifles innovation and threatens the long term health of our industry."

If the laws do get passed, it could be bad news for Internet users—regardless of whether or not they're using it for illegal activities. We'd love to hear what you think about the proposals, so please join us in the healthy discussion that's already going on in the forums!
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