UK Issues Tougher Draft Code For Online Copyright InfringementPublished on 26 June 2012 @ 10:38 pm
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
United Kingdom communications regulator Ofcom today published three documents on digital copyright infringement, including a draft code requiring large internet service providers (ISPs) to inform customers of allegations that their internet connection has been used to infringe copyright, and consultations on the code and on cost-sharing.
Under the proposed code, ISPs would have to explain in the notifications the steps subscribers can take to protect their networks from being used to infringe copyright and tell them where they can go to find licensed content on the internet, Ofcom said.
Copyright holders would conduct an information campaign about why infringing their content is bad, and try to develop “more attractive online services to offer their content,” Ofcom said.
From the start the code initially would cover ISPs totalling more than 93 per cent of the UK retail broadband market, that is, those with more than 400,000 broadband-enabled fixed lines. This includes BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk Group and Virgin Media.
ISPs will have to send customers up to three letters reporting suspected infringement, a month apart, after which copyright owners may request anonymous information showing them the infringement reports linked to specific customers. The copyright owner could then seek a court order requiring the ISP to reveal the customer’s identity, with the intent to take legal action under the Copyright Designs and Patent Act of 1988.
Rights owners already have this right, but “the Code is designed to enable them to focus legal action on the most persistent alleged infringers,” Ofcom said.
There will be an appeal process for incorrectly named customers, with the independent panel set by Ofcom.
The documents were prompted by the UK Digital Economy Act of 2010.
Some revisions were made from the first draft of 2010, including that Ofcom must now approve copyright owners’ procedures for gathering evidence of infringement. “Ofcom plans to sponsor the development of a publically-available [sic] standard to help promote good practice in evidence gathering,” it said.
In addition, now when ISPs send letters to subscribers, they must include the number of copyright infringement reports connected to their account.
And appeals got tougher, to be filed within 20 working days, and only on grounds specified in the Digital Economy Act.
Meanwhile, more measures could be on the way. Ofcom said: “[T]he Digital Economy Act outlined a process for further measures which the Secretary of State might consider to help reduce online copyright infringement. These would require ISPs to take steps (such as internet bandwidth reduction, blocking internet access or temporarily suspending accounts) against relevant subscribers in certain circumstances.”
“However,” it said, “those measures could only be considered after the Code has been in force for at least 12 months, and would require further legislation and approval by Parliament. They would also require Ofcom to establish a further independent appeals process with judicial oversight.”
The consultation on the draft code ends on 26 July. Information on the draft code and consultation is here.
The consultation on costs for the proposed plan ends on 18 September. Information is available here.
The Ofcom press release is available here.
William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.