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UK Consumer Groups Fear Huge Cost of Tackling Unlawful ISP File Sharing

Posted: 25th May, 2010 By: MarkJ
pirateThe Open Rights Group and Consumer Focus have warned that the cost of tackling unlawful internet copyright file sharing (p2p) by UK ISP users could force the price we all pay for our broadband services to rise. The Digital Economy Act (DEA) requires internet providers to shoulder "a substantial part of the cost" for notifying customers suspected of breaking the law, which could be passed on to end-users.

The new powers also mean consumers will be presumed guilty of breaking the law if a rights holder believes that they have infringed their copyright. People would even have to pay part of the cost of defending themselves against potentially inaccurate accusations of copyright infringement.

In its response to the Department for Business’ (BIS) consultation (closes today) on how the new laws will be paid for, Consumer Focus says that it should be copyright owners, such as film and music producers, who pay the bulk of the cost towards enforcing the laws and consumer appeals.

Robert Hammond, Head of Post and Digital Communications for Consumer Focus, said:

"New laws to crack down on online copyright infringement are already unfairly weighted against consumers, yet customers are also likely to be expected to foot the bill for enforcing them. The last government admitted that any extra cost for broadband may price thousands of vulnerable consumers out of the market at a time when the internet is becoming vitally important for people to access vital services and get the best deals.

It should be copyright holders, who stand to make hundreds of millions of pounds from these laws, who pick up the tab for enforcing the new laws. If people want to contest the accusations made against them, copyright owners should also pay the cost."

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open rights Group added:

"The consequences of this horrendous legislation are being felt barely weeks after it became law. The idea of having to pay before accessing justice is extraordinary, like something out of Dickens. The government must absolutely guarantee everyone's right to a hearing, and that means not placing payment barriers in front of the innocent."

The precise details of how any costs will be apportioned is currently still being thrashed out, although we should know more within the next few days or weeks. Rights Holders have frequently attempted to portray ISPs as getting rich off copyright infringement, though anybody familiar with the industry knows that this is simply untrue and not how ISPs work.
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