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MPs Call on UK Government to Implement ISP Piracy Warning Letters ASAP

Friday, Sep 27th, 2013 (8:43 am) - Score 1,296

A new report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has taken a broadly pro-enforcement line on tackling Internet copyright infringement (piracy) and called for the much-delayed 2010 Digital Economy Act (DEAct) system of Warning Letters from broadband ISPs to be implemented at “far greater speed” than planned.

The report, which was setup to examine how the government could better support the “creative economy“, is staunchly pro-enforcement in its outlook and uses almost every opportunity to bash the notably more balanced Hargreaves Review (2011). Indeed the majority of those who gave feedback appeared to be copyright groups (here).

At present the controversial DEAct, which among other things outlines a system by which ISPs would issue Notification Letters to customers whom are suspected of involvement with “illegal” sharing of copyright material (repeat offenders could face court action or possibly even “temporary” disconnection), does not expect to send its first letters until “the latter half of 2015“ and further delays cannot be ruled out (here).

The report admits that the DEAct “was originally rushed through Parliament with relatively little debate in the House of Commons” and has been delayed by various other issues, such as BT and TalkTalk’s legal challenge, concerns over the legality of its cost sharing order, political disagreements and generally strong opposition from a variety of other sectors (i.e. everybody from public libraries to journalists).

Never the less it ignores recent evidence (example), which shows that the proposed solution would most likely end up being a waste of time and money, and instead calls upon the government to “resolve the current impasse” on implementing Ofcoms Online Copyright Infringement Code and to “to set out a clear timetable“.

Extract from the Report

We recommend that a copyright infringement notification system envisaged by the Digital Economy Act be implemented with far greater speed than the Government currently plans. By targeting information letters to the worst infringers, early implementation will, we believe, serve an important educative purpose which could percolate more widely.”

The report also claims to be “encouraged” by the “progress” that has been made towards developing a temporary voluntary system of warning letters, although recent feedback from BT, TalkTalk, Sky Broadband and Virgin Media suggests that ISPs still have serious reservations about this approach (here).

The MPs also called for “businesses to use the current law to bring claims wherever it is feasible for them to do so” (hopefully not in the speculative invoicing style of ACS:Law that proved so ineffective) and took a swipe at the Open Rights Group (ORG) for daring to oppose some of the DEAct’s stricter measures by saying they, “firmly repudiate their laissez-faire attitudes towards copyright infringement“.

Sadly Internet Service Providers, at least in terms of Written Evidence, only had BT to represent them and we hope this hasn’t done a disservice because most providers have historically expressed concern over the DEAct’s approach. At least on this issue BT appear to be more in-tune with consumers and the wider market.

BTs Statement:

In relation to the Digital Economy Act (DEA), whilst some will feel frustration about the time taken to implement, it should be recognised there is an inevitability of delay when introducing controversial laws; France, Spain and New Zealand have all experienced this with similar legislation.

However, developments from and alongside the Judicial Review have helped to clarify a number of the issues that troubled a number of stakeholders during the passage of the legislation. These issues were not satisfactorily addressed at the time because of the lack of pre-legislative scrutiny by Parliament and the Bill being rushed through under the pre-election “wash-up” process.

BT’s view, therefore, is that there has been no material adverse impact from the current failure to implement the Digital Economy Act in line with the timetable envisaged at the time the DEA was passed.”

BT also reflected concerns about the plan for a £20 appeals fee, which is intended to “deter too many appeals and so make the system “attractive” to copyright owners“, and warned that ISPs could not begin technical implementation of the DEAct’s letter warning system because “they do not have basic information on the level of infringements, a pre-requisite for system design and build“.

In a practical sense the report offers little in the way of constructive feedback and seems more intended as a vehicle to criticise all those who preach a more moderate approach to tackling copyright infringement.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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