Ofcom has published a draft code which will require ISPs to inform consumers if it’s suspected that their internet connection is being used for illegal downloads. The new measures are a part of the on-going Digital Economy Act 2010 and will allow customers to appeal against any possible action taken, but it will cost them £20 to do so.
Ofcom say that the new code is intended to encourage internet users to "download music and films through legal channels” and ISPs will be required to advise users on how they can protect their own connection, as well as letting them know where they can find licensed content.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: "These measures are designed to foster investment and innovation in the UK’s creative industries, while ensuring internet users are treated fairly and given help to access lawful content.”
"Ofcom will oversee a fair appeals process, and also ensure that rights holders’ investigations under the code are rigorous and transparent.”
However, these ‘fair’ appeals only allow consumers 20 days to put in an appeal, which must be based upon "grounds specified in the Digital Economy Act”; this means that people will not be able to choose their own reasons for appeal.
Under the code, ISPs will be required to send letters spaced at least a month apart to customers they believe to be downloading illegal content. Should a customer receive three letters in any 12 month period, then copyright holders will be allowed to request information on the infringement relating to the account.
If they then want to go ahead and take action, they will be required to seek a court order to obtain the identity of the customer in order to sue for "infringement under the Copyright Design and Patent Act 1988”.
It would seem that suing a consumer under an act which effectively pre-dates the internet is an area which perhaps the powers that be should consider revising, rather than carry on producing a rash of controversial acts which are being continuously objected to by the public and even MPs and MEPS.
Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group (ORG) said of the draft: "Digital revenues are going up, the music and film industry are moving in the right direction, yet this cumbersome policy is still lumbering forward.
"Ofcom are being asked to put lipstick on a pig with this code.”
"The appeals are a joke. The Government has decided that 'I didn't do it' is not a defence. Some people will almost certainly end up in court having done nothing wrong."
This refers to the fact that allegations will be related to a connection, rather than an individual, in the first instance, before more evidence is gathered. However, according to ORG, "there is no fixed standard of evidence, although Ofcom will examine the methodologies.”