One of the most controversial parts of the UK Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEAct), a “technical measure” that could eventually see prolific internet pirates being disconnected (“account suspension”) from their broadband ISP, might be dropped in favour of a set financial penalty (e.g. £100+ fine).
Ofcom’s related Initial Obligations Code for ISPs currently focuses upon issuing warning letters about the detection of unlawful activity on a related customers internet account. Repeat offenders could also find their personal details being shipped on to Rights Holders for possible legal action (the first letters are not expected to be sent until early 2014).
Sadly the DEAct also threatens a future of “technical measures“, such as restrictions on broadband speeds or disconnection, which could be introduced if the warning letters fail to produce a tangible improvement (not that anybody knows how to accurately measure this).
A similar policy has been adopted in many other countries too, such as France, which somewhat pioneered the “three strikes” and you’re out style of “graduated response” to tackling online piracy. As a result it’s often important to keep an eye on France as other countries have a tendency to follow their approach towards copyright enforcement.
But France, much like the United Kingdom, also has plenty of opponents to the idea of internet disconnection and as a result some Rights Holders have decided to pursue a different tactic. In particular TorrentFreak notes that the Union of Independent Phonographic Producers (UPFI) and SACEM, which support the country’s music business, have suggested that the disconnection policy should be replaced with a fine of 140 Euros (£120). The idea has also been endorsed by Warner Music.
Thierry Chassagne, President of Warner Music, said:
“There has not been a lot of repression. This part of the mission has failed. If we consider that downloading is illegal, it must be punished, it is not a novelty. I think a system of fines would be more proportionate.”
Financial deterrents, such as administrative fines, are now being decided by French politicians and if history is anything to go by then the United Kingdom could end up following a similar path.
As it stands today the UK government will allow the letter warning system to run for awhile before deciding whether or not further action would be necessary. In other words it will probably be left until after the next general election in 2015.