ISPs agree to tackle illegal file sharing

24 Jul 2008

The six major internet service providers (ISPs), the music and film rights-holders and the Government in the UK reached a landmark agreement today to address unlawful file-sharing of film and music online.

This is a world-first solution which aims to provide consumers with content in the way they wish to use it, encourage new uses of technology and protect the UK’s creative industries, according to the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

The aim is to create a self-regulatory environment, with the involvement of communications regulator Ofcom. This will include informing consumers of the illegality of file sharing and pointing to alternative legal methods available.

The agreement is central to the UK Government’s preferred industry-led approach, which will pilot letters to be sent to the registered user of an internet account when it has been identified as having been used to unlawfully share copyrighted material, and then point them to legally available sources.

“This is an intelligent approach to tackling unlawful file-sharing by industry and ISPs. It tells consumers what they can do, rather than just what they can’t,” said Business Secretary of State, John Hutton.

“This light-touch approach keeps up with the pace set by technology and will protect consumers, creative industries and the use of technology now and in the longer term.”

Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Andy Burnham, added: “Today’s announcement holds out the hope of a sustainable future for music and our other creative industries, whilst ensuring consumers continue to get the full benefits new technology can offer.”

ISPs and rights holders are to produce a code of practice on how they will deal with alleged repeat infringers. Government will consult to give this code legislative underpinning, while Ofcom will facilitate discussion between the parties and approve the final code of practice.

There was no mention of the possibility of a flat-rate annual charge to download music being introduced, which had been suggested in the UK media.

By Sorcha Corcoran