New Proposals on Illegal File-sharing Published

August 24, 2009

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 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 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.’

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.

Commenting on the Government’s new position on illicit file sharing Larry Whitty, Chairman, Consumer Focus said:


‘Cutting people off the internet for allegedly infringing copyright is disproportionate.  And to do so without giving consumers the right to challenge the evidence against them undermines fundamental rights to a fair trial.  It would be unfair to enforce this law in an area where millions of consumers are not clear on what is allowed and what is not. Unless a better solution can be found substantial elements of the population will be criminalised. Illegal file sharing should not be condoned but millions do it daily.  The rise of this activity is a consequence of the creative industries failure to deliver products that consumers want.  The industry should get its own house in order rather than promote punitive measures like this. The Government originally proposed to tackle illegal file sharing by sending warning letters and taking court action before technical measures can be imposed.  This approach would be fairer, more proportionate and better respect consumer rights.’

FAST Chief Executive John Lovelock stated:

‘This is an unexpected but very welcome development for the future of the UK’s creative industries. FAST has lobbied long and hard for a sensible change to the law that maintains a level playing field for the legitimate user. The proposed measures include quicker sanctions to cut off serious infringers’ Internet connections. This is a step further than Lord Carters’ Digital Britain Report that recommended merely “technical measures” to slow the connection speed of persistent infringers. The Digital Britain work is set to go on until 2012, so it is heartening that the government has decided to look into practical solutions that will offer help to some of the most vibrant sectors in the UK economy: Software publishers, games developers, music, films etc. The whole of the creative industries contribute £53 billion to the UK economy through their IP investments. Having the power to cut off serious infringers’ access to the Internet, provided the evidence is there, would take away their ability to access and distribute content they have no right to in the first place. Tough action is required to tackle hardened content thieves. People see software piracy as a victimless crime, but it robs organisations of their legitimate revenue to invest in new products, employees of their livelihood, and the government of taxable income from sales which all UK citizens benefit from eventually. What is rarely mentioned in the digital content debate is that 27 per cent of the software used in UK businesses is illegal which equates to £1.3 billion loss per annum to the software industry alone – more than the losses to the film and music industries combined.’


The explanatory statement on P2P file-sharing can be viewed at : The Digital Britain report is at