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By: MarkJ - 1 June, 2009 (11:53 AM)
The Respect for Film campaign group, which is backed by several major movie studios and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), have approached the UK government with a "new" proposal for dealing with the problem of illegal downloads from broadband ISP customers. Users that fail to heed an initial warning and continue their illegal activity could face "speed bumps", such as restrictions to their broadband service speeds.

The chair of Respect For Film, Lavinia Carey, told The Guardian: "Making life difficult for people who persist in accessing and copying protected material, while not preventing them using the Internet for legitimate purposes, is surely preferable to court actions except in the most flagrant cases of abuse. We see the technological measures as similar to creating road humps - they will make potential copyright infringers pause and think twice."

Alternatively the lobby group suggested that ISPs could consider imposing measures that would block or warn their customers from viewing websites used to distribute pirated material. This might include using a filtering method similar to how the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) works to block access to known child abuse sites.

The latter is perhaps more plausible than restricting service speed, which would still run the risk of catching innocent users in a web of virtually unproven suspicion (because you can't rely on IP details to identify an individual). It's also more preferable to the repeatedly dismissed idea of disconnecting users from their ISP.

Typically advanced pirates would still find ways around such restrictions, although they could probably circumvent virtually any measure. The advantage of a website block list approach would be that it might seriously hinder the actions of common/casual abusers; those lacking the knowledge to avoid such a restriction.

The precise form that either solution takes would need to be decided between ISPs and the industry. It would certainly be a lot easier to solve this problem once the solution itself has been agreed, as opposed to the current 'nobody agrees on anything' situation. Legal action against individuals would still remain a possibility, albeit only in the most extreme cases.

However, neither of the two ideas is new and both have been proposed before, albeit to a mixed reception and with less support. Now, with Lord Carter's final Digital Britain report just weeks away, the pressure is on to compromise and find a middle ground solution.

In a recent ISPreview survey asking "how should ISPs tackle illegal P2P file sharing?" (here), over 20% showed support for the idea of restricting P2P access (blocked sites or specific service restrictions) and just under 15% voted for a restriction to service speeds. Clearly no solution will be popular.
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