Ofcom Consults on Code for ISPs’ Copyright Infringement Obligations

May 31, 2010

The draft code sets out how and when ISPs will send notifications to their subscribers to inform them of allegations that their accounts have been used for copyright infringement. The code also sets out the threshold for including subscribers on a copyright infringers list which must be compiled by ISPs.

The Digital Economy Act 2010 requires that a code of practice is implemented no later than eight months from Royal Assent, including approval from the European Commission. Subject to consultation and approval, Ofcom expects the code to come into force in early 2011.

The code will initially cover only the larger fixed-line ISPs but, should levels of copyright infringement on other networks (including mobile) increase, those ISPs will similarly be required to comply with the obligations. Ofcom proposes that fixed-line ISPs with over 400,000 subscribers will be covered initially.

This would mean that the seven largest ISPs – BT, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, Sky, Orange, O2 and Post Office – will be covered by the code from the outset.

Ofcom proposes to regularly review evidence of online copyright infringement across all service providers and to extend the scope of the code if appropriate.

ISPs will have to record the number of notifications sent to their subscribers and maintain an anonymised list of alleged serial copyright infringers. Copyright holders can then request information on this list and pursue a court order to identify serial infringers and take legal action against them.

Ofcom is proposing a three stage notification process for ISPs to inform subscribers of copyright infringements and proposes that subscribers which have received three notifications within a year may be included in a list requested by a copyright owner.

Ofcom proposes to establish ‘an independent, robust subscriber appeals mechanism’ for consumers who believe they have received incorrect notifications. It also proposes to establish arrangements for enforcement and dealing with industry disputes, as well as sharing the costs arising from the code.

The consultation on the code closes on 30 July 2010. The draft code can be read in full here.