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Illegal downloading suspects won’t face official warnings until 2014

Suspected illegal file-sharers have until 2014 before the first government-approved warning letters will land on their doorsteps.

The letters are part of a ‘three strikes’ policy set up by the Digital Economy Act when it was passed by an election-happy Parliament in the final weeks of the last Labour government.

The first letters were expected to be sent out in 2011, but they have been delayed by unsuccessful challenges from TalkTalk and BT, who didn’t want to become online policemen.

Now Paul Kirkman, head of arts at the Department for Culture, Ministry and Sport, has set out a timetable which delays them until 2014.

File sharing ad by the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Kirkman told a conference of the Creative Coalition Campaign: “It’s not as fast as we would have liked it to be but the situation is that we were in court on this a very short while ago because it’s been subject to judicial review. That determines where we can start from.”

Broadband subscribers will get two increasingly stern warnings that their connection is being used for sharing copyrighted material without permission.

If their freeloading ways continue, they could suffer slower broadband speeds or even disconnection.

The DCMS still has to set out how the system will work, following commercial attempts to shake down broadband subscribers which have found little sympathy from the courts.

The DEA’s roughly-sketched ‘three strikes’ policy will have to be fleshed out with who is going to enforce it, how they will reliably identify suspected illegal file-sharers, how they will be punished, and – most importantly – who’s going to pay for it.

The first letters will almost certainly spring a round of legal challenges asking if it’s right to make a broadband subscriber responsible for the actions of everyone who uses the connections.

Images: Magnus Brath/Flickr and Electronic Frontier Foundation/Flickr

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