The UK government is backing away from a proposal in the Digital Economy Bill that would cut off broadband access for consumers that were found to illegally share media files online. With the latest comment on a petition from the government, it appears that the controversial “Three Strikes” proposal might be amended.
The petition called for the Prime Minister to “abandon Lord Mandelson’s plans to ban individuals from the internet based on their use of ‘peer to peer’ file sharing.” The petition goes on to note that not all peer-to-peer file sharing indicates copyright infringement, and that the proposal would put tremendous strain on ISPs that would be forced to monitor its customers’ Internet usage.
In the government’s response to the petition, it claims that infringers will not have their broadband connections cut off “except in the most extreme — and therefore probably criminal cases.” Even so, under the new bill ISPs will still be required to write to customers whose accounts are identified as having illegally downloaded material. And in the case of “the most serious infringers,” rights holders can obtain a court order to get identifying information from the ISP that would allow the rights holder to take the infringer to court. In addition to seeking customer information in the case of serious infringers, the bill enables an ISP to apply “technical measures” to restrict file sharing, which could include temporary suspension of service or throttling of some applications.
The response makes clear that it’s not the ISP’s job to monitor illegal file sharing, but the rights holders who must proactively seek out infringers. “Under the legislation, it is the rights holders who will identify cases of alleged copyright infringement, not the ISPs,” the government writes. Rights holders will also have to cover much of the financial burden, paying 75 percent of the costs associated with the new anti-piracy measures.
This has become a point of contention for some ISPs, including TalkTalk, which has vowed not to divulge any customer information to rights holders pursuing alleged P2P infringers. TalkTalk also said that it would fight orders to throttle or disconnect customers who haven’t been convicted of a crime.
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