UK File Shares Could Lose Web Access

PC World
Tuesday, February 12, 2008; 12:14 PM

Those who illegally download movies and music in the UK could have their Internet service cut off under a forthcoming recommendation that could be used to craft legislation.

The Times of London reported on Tuesday that file sharers would get "three strikes" before their ISPs (Internet service providers) would be legally required to shut off access, under the proposal. The recommendation was contained in a draft copy of a strategy document from the Department for Culture Media and Sport, which is studying the UK's creative industry. Under terms of the proposal expected to be finalized and then released later this month, a violator would receive an e-mail warning for the first offense, be suspended the second time and then be booted from the Internet.

A DCMS spokeswoman said the newspaper obtained a draft of the proposal that is several months old and was circulated to stakeholders for comment. The "three-strikes" provision is no longer accurate, she said, but she declined to answer more questions about the document.

The idea would essentially require ISPs to monitor people's activity on the Internet and then intervene on behalf of the copyright holders. The entertainment industry supports the idea, but opponents say it amounts to an enormous intrusion on privacy and would not stop piracy.

The Internet Service Providers' Association UK is not liable for illegal content that passes on its network, the group said in a statement Tuesday. That defense is codified in the European Union's E-commerce regulations of 2002, ISPA UK said. Current data protection laws also prevent ISPs from examining transmitted content, the group said.

ISPA UK also claimed technical restrictions: "ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the post office is able to open every envelope."

The UK branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said in a statement on Tuesday it hoped for "swift action" by ISPs to disconnect persistent copyright infringers.

The proposal comes as European countries are wrangling with how to protect copyright holders and deal with illegal file sharing on P-to-P (peer-to-peer) networks such as BitTorrent and eDonkey.

In 2006, France made unauthorized file sharing punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of 30,000 euro (US$44,000). The French Ministry of Culture has also suggested cutting off the Internet access of pirates.

However, a European Parliament committee recently struck out of a report on intellectual-property issues a suggestion that ISPs monitor and ban users based on the content they transmit.

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