UK P2P Warning Letters by December?

UK P2P Warning Letters by December?

Office of Communications (Ofcom) begins drafting measures to tackle illegal file-sharing after the recently passed Digital Economy Act, which requires that an obligations code be made no later than 8 months from Royal Assent (the Queen’s formal approval). This may include other controversial portions of the Act like website filtering and a ban on public access Wi-Fi, though neither of which have been mentioned by Ofcom thus far.

The UK govt is wasting no time enacting the recently passed Digital Economy Act. The country’s Office of Communications (Ofcom), regulatory body for the telecommunications industry, has announced that it’s already begun laying out a framework for how to proceed with establishing a code of practice for ISPs to comply with in order to tackle illegal file-sharing on their networks.

The Act initially requires ISPs to notify customers their account has been accused of illegal file-sharing by copyright holders, and to maintain a list of warnings. Copyright holders can obtain names on the list to pursue legal action with a Court Order, but the accused are guaranteed “access to a robust and effective appeals mechanism” to challenge the notifications.

“We intend to begin work immediately on establishing a robust subscriber appeals mechanism, and a framework for handling disputes,” it says in a new reference page outlining how it plans tackle online copyright infringement.

Should those initial measures fail to “significantly reduce” levels of illegal file-sharing the Secretary of State may require that ISPs implement technical measures against serious repeat infringers – aka Internet disconnection or throttling.

There’s no mention of what “significant” means however, it says that it will have to establish a methodology for estimating the level of illegal file-sharing. It will then use that to create a baseline on the day the initial obligations code is passed, and any reductions from then on will be used to assess the impact of the measures.


“Our first task will be to establish the feasibility of an industry drafted code.” it continues. “Such a code would need to have the support of a sufficiently wide range of stakeholders for it to be credible and would need to be submitted to Ofcom within a period of time which would allow Ofcom to satisfy the deadline for implementation. Failing this, Ofcom will move quickly to draft an appropriate code on which we will seek input from all stakeholders.”

It will devise and publish a draft code no later than next month, after which it will allow consumer groups, ISPs, and copyright holders to contribute their thoughts on the proposals. The code will then be finalized and published no later than the end of September and, at the same time, be submitted in the form of a draft statutory instrument embodying the approved code to the European Commission for consideration.

Altogether, the process is expected to take 8 months, the maximum amount of time the Act allows for from the time of Royal Assent, the Queen’s formal approval of the legislation. This means the earliest ISPs could begin sending out warning letters to accused illegal file-sharers would be this December. The same is probably true of other controversial portions of the Act like website filtering and a ban on public access Wi-Fi, though neither have been mentioned by Ofcom thus far.

Stay tuned.

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