UK ISPs Surrender, Agree to Fight P2P Piracy

Instead of controversial “three-strikes-and-your-out” policy, internet subscribers will face as yet determined sanctions like warnings, speed throttling and perhaps content filtering.

Sometime tomorrow UK government business minister Baroness Vadera is expected to announce a deal she brokered between the country’s big six ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB, and Carphone Warehouse – and Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the communication industries in the United Kingdom, to combat piracy in that country on behalf of copyright holders like the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), who has been the most vocal on the issue.

“This is something of a step into the unknown for the internet providers, music industries and ministers,” said Fergal Sharkey, the former Undertones singer who is now chief executive of British Music Rights, the body that represents musicians. “But we can’t go on without it — no business can survive after losing as much revenue as the music industry has.”

The Carphone Warehouse, if you recall, had previously said that it would refuse to become the Internet police and “impinge its customers’ rights and restrict their freedom of use of the internet.”

“TalkTalk has written to the BPI confirming that it will continue to protect its customers and under no circumstances will it voluntarily adopt a scheme that requires it to begin disconnections or sharing customer information with the music industry,” it wrote in a press release.

Apparently it had a change of heart when it was guaranteed that it would in no way have to terminate the Internet subscriptions of customers who fail to heed a third warning for suspected illegal file-sharing.

The only thing that remains now is for ISPs and copyright holder groups to draw up a code of practice on how they propose to deal with copyright infringements, and the government will then consider how this can be backed with legislation.

The first series of sanctions are expected to be warning letters that will be sent to thousands of the most prolific downloaders to inform them that their activity has been detected and is being monitored.

The second may involve more substantial action involving speed throttling and content filtering.

However, no details are yet available of what sanctions may be used against repeated file-sharers. Some would like to see ISP customers pay a tax to cover the cost of illegal downloading, or for heavy downloaders have data usage caps imposed on them to slow them down..

It’s good news that the controversial “three-strikes-and-your-out” policy for suspected file-sharers has seemingly been abandoned, but it does point to a more unsettling course for ISPs where a user’s traffic and data are monitored for any hint of illegal activity.

One has to wonder what kind of cooperation the ISPs must have with copyright holders and to what extant their Internet usage will be monitored.

Say what you will about the corporitization of the US, but at least we do have some privacy on what is the world’s leading and single most important means of knowledge and communication.

Stay tuned.