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UK Scales Back its Broadband ISP Reduction Targets for File Sharing Piracy

Posted: 07th Jul, 2009 By: MarkJ
The UK government’s one year old pledge to reduce Internet music piracy by 70% within two to three years (one year gone already) has been quietly watered down. The changes were revealed in a leaked letter from the Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, which had been sent at the end of June; shortly after the publication of Lord Carter's final Digital Britain report.

Under the plans, as outlined in last month’s Digital Britain report (full details here), all UK ISPs will be required to issue those suspected of illegal downloading with a warning letter. Should that be ignored then a court-based process of identity release and civil action would follow, with the possible imposition of technical measures (e.g reduced speeds) as a last resort - only used if the ISP fails to reduce piracy by 70% within the first year.

It's important not to confuse the ISPs internal 70% target with the government’s overall 70% target, though they are obviously related. So what has changed? The problem is that the Digital Britain proposals have yet to become law and they won't do so until November’s planned Digital Economy Bill is completed by sometime in 2010, thus making the government’s original target somewhat redundant.

Quote from The Times:

Mr Bradshaw, writing to Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat culture spokesman, in a letter dated June 22, said that “a more constructive approach” would be “to take as our starting point the time at which obligations on internet service providers take effect” — effectively setting the target back by at least 18 months.

Meanwhile Rights Holders, many of whom already believe the proposals to be too weak, will no doubt be even more frustrated by the slow pace of government to introduce the new measures. Thankfully six of the largest UK ISPs are already issuing warning letters, although it's difficult to know how much of an impact this has had.

To be fair the government’s original target was wildly over optimistic anyway and never stood even the smallest chance of being met. Anybody that thought different would simply have failed to understand the complexity of said problem.
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