Ofcom issues new code for ISPs in copyright infringement disputes

26 Jun 2012

UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom has published a new draft code that would require large ISPs to inform customers of allegations that their internet connections have been used to infringe copyright.

The code, which is out for consultation, will be published under the Digital Economy Act 2010 and is intended to promote lawful access to digital content, like music and movies.

ISPs will be required to explain the steps users can take to protect their networks from being used to steal copyrighted material and direct them to places on the internet where they can find licensed, legal content.

Put simply, ISPs in the UK will be required to invest in educating their users about the impact of copyright infringement through awareness campaigns.

They will also be required to develop attractive online services that promote licensed content.

The new guidelines will cover ISPs with more than 400,000 fixed line subscribers, such as BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin.

Alleged copyright infringement

Users who fall under the controversial ‘three strikes’ rule must receive letters at least a month apart informing them they are suspected of copyright infringement.

If users receive three letters within 12 months, anonymous information may be issued on request to copyright holders who may then seek a court order requiring the ISP to reveal the identities of the customers.

Ofcom says the code is designed to enable copyright holders to focus legal action on the most persistent alleged infringers.

Revisions to the first draft code issued in May include new evidence-gathering procedures that must be approved by Ofcom, the notifications letters policy and subscribers must have 20 working days to appeal against alleged infringements.

Subject to further review by the European Commission, Ofcom’s new code will require further legislation and approval by parliament.

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,” Pollack said.

Copyright infringement image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years