UK set to adopt controversial “three strikes” rule to fight online piracy

digital-piracy-skull-and-swords-binaryThe UK’s media regulator, Ofcom, has published a draft amendment to the Digital Economy Act 2010, which will see a “three strikes” rule implemented against those who’ve allegedly pirated copyrighted material on the Internet.

Announced earlier this week, it’s being described as “a system to educate people about copyright to ensure they know what legitimate content is and where to find it,” and the code will apply to any ISP with more than 400,000 subscribers — meaning BT, Sky, O2, Virgin, Everything Everywhere and Talk Talk will all be affected.

ISPs will be initially be sent a notice of copyright infringement from the copyright holder, then the first letter of warning to those connected with the allegation will be sent out. Details on where to download legal material will be included in the text.

If three letters are sent in the space of 12-months, then the copyright holder can apply for a court order to force the ISP to release the recipient’s identity, and take legal action of their own.

Three strikes, you’re out

Those with three letters against their names will also be placed on a Copyright Infringement List, which could eventually result in their Internet connection being throttled or cut off completely. An appeals process can be entered into, but to add insult to the fact you’re assumed guilty at this point, it’ll cost £20 to go to court and argue your innocence.

That £20 (which is refundable should you be proven innocent, how nice) is small fry compared to the costs incurred by the copyright holder. According to Ofcom’s summary, they’ll be liable for 75-percent of the total costs, which has been set at £1.4 million for each ISP. The Guardian reports that a discount will be available for those sending bulk copyright infringement notices, where a standard letter will fall from £20 to £7.20.

Success in France?

At the beginning of the year, France’s similar HADOPI scheme received positive press, and it appeared the letter system was a success, as for the 736,000 who received the first warning, only 62,000 got a second and just 135 got a third and final letter.

Last year, the USA signed a statement sent to the UN, condemning the use of a “three strikes” system which could potentially result in an individual being cut off from the Internet. However, that hasn’t stopped the “copyright alerts” program being considered.

Ofcom’s new code hasn’t been welcomed in the UK, with the Open Rights Group calling it a “cumbersome policy still lumbering forward” and describing the appeals process as “a joke.”

There will now be a consultation period until the end of July, then after the EU reviews the code, it’ll enter Parliament before the end of the year. Ofcom expects the first warning letters to be sent in March 2014.

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