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By: MarkJ - 18 May, 2010 (7:55 AM)
ISP music pirateMarket regulator Ofcom has informed the UK Internet Service Providers Association ( ISPA ) that broadband ISPs with less than 400,000 subscribers are likely to escape the initial Digital Economy Act (DEA) crackdown on unlawful copyright file sharing (P2P). Mobile Broadband operators will also escape, at least for now.

The code itself will cover several crucial areas; how Copyright Infringement Reports (CIR) are handled; management of the illegal file sharing warning/notification letters process; appeals against false or unfair accusations by copyright holders; and costs. There are other things too but those are the primary points for consumers to be aware of.

Most ISPs agree that both they and Ofcom have not been given enough time to develop a code for something so complex. Indeed the regulator is currently of the view that ISPs will not be able to produce an effective solution of their own in time and is therefore likely to present something with flexibility.

Trefor Davies, Chief Technology Officer at ISP Timico UK, blogged:

"Due to the short timescales Ofcom has been working to, the Code will be instructional rather than setting out line-by-line what is required. For example, instead of dictating a standard approach for a CIR, those affected will have to tell Ofcom how they will go about it and Ofcom will then approve it or recommend changes."

There are currently between 6 and 8 ISPs with more than 400,000 broadband customers in the UK market, depending on whether or not you break the figures down between parent firms. Ofcom has previously agreed that smaller providers should be excluded from the code, though the window may be left open for that to change in the future.

The long-term goal is to target ISPs with a lot of copyright infringing customers, with Ofcom seeking to follow the traffic between providers. In other words being small may not be an effective defence, although the criteria here has yet to be clarified. It's hard to see how the smallest of niche ISPs could handle this.

Ofcom currently has until the end of this month to present a draft Code of Practice (CoP) on the matter (two weeks). The issue of technical measures, such as disconnection and bandwidth limits, will follow after the warning letters process has been given time to work first.

The former Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson, informed the c&binet conference in November last year that if the amount of illegal downloading had not dropped by 70% come April 2011 then measures to cut-off file sharers would be imposed from July 2011 onwards.
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