UK Government cans ISP ban plans

Government plans to operate a three strikes and you're out system for persistent file sharers have been shelved in response to a public petition which compared blaming ISP's for piracy to forcing the Post Office to search through parcels for photocopied documents or mix tape cassettes.

An official response to the petition reads: "The Government wants as many people as possible to enjoy all the benefits that broadband internet can bring. New technology has changed the way people want to use and access media content, in some cases faster than products and services commercially on offer have developed.

"We are also clear that the benefits of the internet must include economic benefits for our creative industries and artists. We therefore take extremely seriously the problem of on-line copyright infringement, and have been working closely with rights holders, media companies and internet firms to develop practical solutions to reduce and prevent this. Whilst all parties would prefer a voluntary solution, rather than regulatory, it is clear that such a solution is very difficult to achieve.

"We recognise that one problem is the need for a level playing field and therefore acknowledge the need for a regulatory baseline. The Digital Economy Bill, published on 20th November, sets out in detail our proposed legislation to tackle on-line copyright infringement, including unlawful peer to peer file-sharing."

The Bill requires ISPs to write to customers whose accounts had been identified by a rights holder as having been used for illegal downloading of their material. In the cases of the most serious infringers, if a rights holder obtains a court order, the ISP would have to provide information so that the rights holder can take targeted court action.

The original bill included that ability to cut off ISP access to anyone who continued to share copyrighted material, but protests about whole families being denied Internet access because of the actions of one family member were taken into consideration.

Now it seems that 'technical measures', including capping downloads, restricting bandwidth and temporary suspension will be used to achieve a planned 70 per cent reduction in illegal file sharing rather than arbitrary bans based on media company accusations.

"A proper independent appeal would be available against application of technical measures", the statement says.

The Government has also reserved the right to easily amend the Copyright Design and Patent Act which it hopes will allow it to keep up with emerging technologies.

The statement also indirectly criticised anachronistic media giants by praising companies which have embraced the new download culture. "Rights holders need business models which work in the new digital environment. That is why we welcomed the announcements such as the Virgin Media and Universal agreement, the development of Spotify and the music offers announced by Vodafone and Sky. These are the types of agreement which will play a critical role in moving the great majority of people away from piracy."

The revised bill will also prevent Internet service providers from having to police traffic on their networks, as some industry lobbyists have demanded, suggesting that copyright cops should concentrate on uploaders rather than downloaders "We are not requiring ISPs to monitor for unlawful file-sharing. Nor are we proposing that ISPs look at what users download in order to combat piracy. The way in which cases of alleged copyright infringement are discovered involves identifying material offered to other users for download in breach of copyright, rather than any monitoring of an individual’s internet account for downloads."

The response concludes: "We will not terminate the accounts of infringers - it is very hard to see how this could be deemed proportionate except in the most extreme – and therefore probably criminal – cases."