Ofcom takes new steps to crack down on piracy

ILLEGAL downloaders could be reported to copyright owners under a new system unveiled yesterday by communications regulator Ofcom.

The draft code – still subject to a consultation period, European approval and the governmental green light – requires the major internet service providers (ISPs) to notify their customers of allegations that their internet connection has been used to infringe copyright.

Customers who receive three letters or more within a year could have anonymous details of their piracy sent to the copyright owners, who will then be able to seek a court order to obtain information about the user’s identity.

“These measures are designed to foster investment and innovation in the UK’s creative industries,” Ofcom’s Claudio Pollack said.

The new rules will initially affect the country’s biggest ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky, Everything Everywhere and O2 – which together cover more than 93 per cent of the retail broadband market.

The policy has been on the watchdog’s to-do list since the Digital Economy Act was passed in 2010, but was repeatedly delayed by block attempts by BT and TalkTalk.

The final hurdle was removed in March when the telcos lost their legal appeal against the legislation.

But two companies were successful in persuading judges that the ISPs should not have to foot the bill of enforcing the rules.

Ofcom yesterday said the rights holders will shoulder most of the costs. However, the price structure implies the more infringement reports the content owners send to the ISPs, the cheaper it will be per complaint.

Internet users who wish to appeal allegations that they have illegally downloaded content will have to fork out £20, which will be refunded if successful.

Customers have almost two years to mend their ways; Ofcom said it expects the policy to take practical effect in early 2014.