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BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin pressured to spy on illegal downloads

Britain’s major ISPs face pressure to start tracking customers’ illegal downloads before there’s a legal requirement, so they can be prosecuted or cut off.

Recording and film industry groups want BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to sign up to a voluntary code for policing illegal downloads.

The BPI and British Video Association (BVA) are frustrated by delays in implementing the Digital Economy Act (DEA), which would force ISPs to police their customers’ behaviour.

BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin pressured to spy on illegal downloads

Read Recombu Digital’s guides to the Digital Economy Act and Internet Piracy ProsecutionsThe BPI and record label bosses will have the Prime Minister’s ear at a Downing Street breakfast next week, in a bid to put pressure on broadband providers, The Guardian reports.

The BPI said: “We will discuss with government the need for swifter action to reduce online copyright theft, improve consumer awareness of legal services and make the UK the leading digital economy in Europe.”

ISPs said they would not be pressured to implement measures which could be unworkable or might be illegal themselves.

Virgin Media said: “Music and film companies are speaking to broadband providers about how to address illegal file-sharing but what they’re currently proposing is unworkable.”

TalkTalk said: “We are involved in discussions about measures to address illegal file-sharing and ultimately would like to reach a voluntary agreement. However our customers’ rights always come first and we would never agree to anything that could compromise them.”

The DEA became law in 2010, but discussion on how to enforce its controversial anti-piracy measures have made it unlikely to come into force until 2014 at the earliest.

Under the DEA, and the proposed voluntary code, illegal file-sharers and downloaders would receive three warning letters before facing more severe action.

Sanctions could include throttling their connection speed, blocking certain websites, temporary or permanent disconnection, or prosecution.

ISPs and privacy campaigners have warned that the first step in the process would be creating a database of customer activity for non-commercial purposes, which could be illegal under the Data Protection Act.

Similar concerns over implementing user tracking and the levels of punishment have delayed implementing the DEA, which was rushed through Parliament just before the last General Election. 

The broad-ranging act proposed tracking and punishment for illegal file-sharing, but little time was given to debating the details of how it would work, leaving a minefield for the current government to navigate.

ISPs can currently be forced to give up suspected downloaders’ details to thrid parties under a court order, such as that being used by GoldenEye to demand compensation from illegal porn downloaders.

Image: clurr/Flickr

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