At last! Let’s give the Digital Economy Act a chance to deliver

2 min read MSPs
FAST welcomes OFCOM draft code and consultation process

The Federation Against Software Theft has welcomed the news that the anti-piracy fight has taken a major step forward following the publishing of a draft code by industry regulator, OFCOM.

Under the draft code the UK's biggest ISPs – BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk Group and Virgin Media – will be required to send letters to customers warning them when there is an allegation from a film, TV, music or software company that there has been illegal file sharing from their computer.

Alleged infringers who receive three warning letters in a year will face having information of illicit file sharing history being provided to copyright owners or their agents court order to reveal the customer's identity. Further action can then be taken against piracy.

“The ISPs originally challenged the Act on the grounds of ‘basic rights and freedoms’ and that the legislation did not receive sufficient scrutiny in the wash-up period before the General Election. A review then led in turn to rights holders being blocked from using the anti piracy provisions of the DEA. The DEA went on ice. However, with BT and TalkTalk loosing their appeal, OFCOM has been able to move forward with this major provision for the Digital Economy Act. We must not erode the perception of value in digital product to a point where all online product is considered ‘free’. Nothing is truly free,” stated Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel, at FAST.

“Under the terms of the Digital Economy Act all ISPs will (after European approval) prepare to send warning letters/notices to alleged illegal file sharers, and to keep lists of repeat infringers which can be requested under legal procedures. As a matter of principle, this is a tremendous step forward and one that puts the provisions of the Digital Economy Act on a firmer footing,” he added.

Ofcom said that given the logistics involved in establishing an appeals body and other elements necessary to police the draft code, which implements anti-piracy provisions in the Digital Economy Act, UK internet users will not start receiving letters until 1 March 2014.

The consultation on the online infringement of copyright code closes on 26 July 2012. A separate consultation on the allocation of costs for policing the code runs until 18 September 2012.

"It is essential that government creates the right conditions for businesses to grow," said creative industries minister Ed Vaizey. "We must ensure our creative industries can protect their investment. They have the right to charge people to access their content if they wish, whether in the physical world or on the Internet.

"We are putting in place a system to educate people about copyright to ensure they know what legitimate content is and where to find it. The Digital Economy Act is an important part of protecting our creative industries against unlawful activity."