UK ISPs don't want to become the Internet Police

Written by Tim Smalley

May 13, 2009 // 1:28 p.m.

Tags: #bill #creative #disconnection #file #france #government #industries #internet #interview #ispa #isps #piracy #police #providers #service #sharing #strikes #three #uk #ukfc

The Internet Service Providers' Association, the umbrella group which represents ISPs in the UK, has rejected calls for them to monitor Internet usage and cut off users who repeatedly share copyrighted material.

Yesterday, the UK government heard pleas from an alliance of UK creative industry bodies to force ISPs to disconnect persistent illegal file sharers if they ignored repeated warnings.

In a statement, the group said that it believes disconnecting users is "a disproportionate response," which is a view supported by the European Parliament.

The ISPA continues to dispute calls for disconnection of persistent copyright violators from some elements of the creative industries because it believes current technology will not stand up in court. "ISPA members have consistently explained that significant technological advances would be required if these members are to reach a standard where they would be admissible as evidence in court," read the statement.

The UK Film Council believes that something needs to be done and that the responsibility should fall on ISPs. "You can send out all the cease and desist emails in the world, but ultimately if there isn't any sanction with some sort of threat of disrupted broadband, then the threats are empty and will be ignored," said John Woodward, Chief Executive of UKFC.

Parliament appears to be siding with the ISPs at the moment though, as Barbara Follett MP, Minister for the Creative Industries, said that the Government favoured a system of warning letters to offenders with the threat of legal action instead of disconnection in a press conference yesterday.

"We propose a requirement for ISPs to notify their customers that are engaging in unlawful file-sharing and notify them in such a way that any further action would have consequences. The consequences we propose are legal action; I know some people feel that is not sufficient," explained Follet, before saying that the details of the Government's plans would be included in next month's Digital Britain report.

The creative industries alliance feels that legal action isn't enough and that the onus will fall on the creative industry and not on ISPs. ISPA Secretary General Nicholas Lansman said, "ISPA recognises that there is a problem with unlawful P2P file sharing, but it is important to recognise that a major part of the solution lies in licensing reform and the availability of legal content online. ISPA remains committed to working with the Government and the creative industries to find a solution which balances the needs of all parties and is fair for consumers."

Woodward conceded this point and recognised that the creative industries had to introduce 'radical new business models' if it is to succeed in the digital age. "There needs to be a better relationship between content providers, ISPs and consumers," he said.

In related news, the French National Assembly has said "Oui!" to the controversial 'three strikes' bill, which is supported by President Nicolas Sarkozy, after it rejected it last month. The legislation, known as the Creation and Internet bill, will force ISPs to first warn offenders by email, then by a letter and then finally disconnect online media pirates for a year if caught a third time.

The bill slipped through with relative ease after a 296 to 233 vote in the lower house. The Senate has also given the final approval with a vote of 189 to 14 that excluded opposition Socialist and Communist senators.

Not surprisingly, the bill has been backed by the creative industries, while Governments across the world – including in the UK – are watching how the scheme works as a potential deterrent. John Kennedy, Chairman of global music industry body IFPI, said that the bill is "an effective and proportionate way of tackling online copyright infringement and migrating users to the wide variety of legal music services in France."

What isn't clear at the moment is exactly how illegal file sharers will be detected given the ISPA's statements above. Got a reaction to the news? Tell us in the forums.

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