Ofcom will start sending letters to alleged file sharers in 2013 under the Digital Economy Act
Ofcom will start sending notification letters to alleged file sharers from the summer of 2013, but says that it still needs to solve a myriad of issues before it can successfully implement the controversial Digital Economy Act (DEA).
The Act, which was passed during the final days of the previous Labour government in 2010, includes provisions for blocking entire websites found to be hosting copyright infringing material as well as warning users who illegally download content as part of Ofcom’s ‘three strikes’ clampdown. Ofcom was asked to review the Act’s provisions in February, having drafted the three strikes proposal in May 2010.
Cracking the code
Ofcom told the government that the site-blocking plans were currently unworkable, although content owners can still apply to have websites blocked via the High Court. Also, the problems of defining terms such as “subscriber” and ISP” has proved difficult, as has the decision over which ISPs should be subject to the “obligation code”.
ISPs will be required to keep track of users suspected of file sharing, but Ofcom has said that IP matching technologies would have to sufficiently accurate for the law to be enforced.
Drafting the code has prove] to be a “very complex task”, Ofcom’s internet policy director Campbell Cowie told a Westminster eForum meeting yesterday.
“We’d love to be able to provide clear and definitive guidance on how those definitions are to be interpreted in the context of the code,” Cowie said, according to a report by ZDnet. “We’re bound by legal requirement to recognise the independence of the appeals body in deciding on such matters and context-specific nature of those definitions.” he continued.
Last chance saloon
However opponents of the act have continued to voice their opposition. BT and Talktalk have been among the strongest critics of the DEA since it was first announced and Talktalk’s executive director of strategy and regulation, Andrew Heaney, repeated these objections.
Currently, the cost of enforcing the act is split 75/25 with rights holders paying the majority and ISPs the remaining amount. Heaney says that, however it is split, the cost will ultimately be passed on the customer, who will be effectively paying to protect the rights of copyright holders – and will have to pay another £20 to appeal against any action under the DEA.
Politicians have also been critical of the act and have promised to challenge it in a parliamentary debate. MP for Cambridge and chair of the Liberal Democrat’s IT policy working group, Julian Huppert, has tabled amendments to a separate measure, the Protection of Freedoms Bill, which would repeal sections 17 and 18 of the DEA which permits websites to be blocked if they are suspected of copyright infringement.