Ofcom getting ready to grass up filesharers to copyright holders
Ofcom have revealed their draft code of practice for dealing for illegal downloaders under the Digital Economy Act – and it’s a bit wacky to say the least.
Under the code, ISPs will collect the details of naughty downloaders, issuing them with warning letters every time they are caught doing a naughty download. Any user who receives three letters within a 12-month period will have their personal details handed over to the owners of the copyrighted material so that they can be sued.
But Ofcom’s code will initially only apply to ISPs with over 400,00 customers, namely BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, Sky, Orange, O2 and the Post Office – the big seven who have 96% of the UK’s internet customers.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you want to secure yourself against a lawsuit, you’ll switch to one of the countless other smaller ISPs that aren’t on the list. Ofcom say they’ll review the situation on a quarterly basis and could extend their code to cover smaller ISPs if they feel they need to.
But the proposed code has been greeted with a wave of dissent. Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group said: “Letters being sent out could cause a lot of worry and fear. People may feel they are under surveillance,” adding, “This is another extremely rushed process, forced by the Digital Economy Act's absurd timetables. There are huge unanswered questions, not least whether innocent people will have to pay to appeal.”
A group made up of the Communications Consumer Panel, Consumer Focus, Which?, Citizens Advice and the Open Rights Group has been formed to produce a set of principles that they believe will ensure that consumers are protected under the new code.
Their principles include that there should be sound evidence of wrongdoing before any action is taken against a consumer; that comprehensive and consistent information needs to be provided to all suspected repeat infringers and this should be written in plain English; that consumers must have the right to defend themselves; and that there is an independent and transparent appeals process is essential, at no cost to the customer.