British regulators spell out plans to regulate ISPs

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British regulators spell out plans to regulate ISPs

Outlines plans to police the UK's Digital Economy Act.

British Telecommunications regulator Ofcom has given an initial outline of how it plans to implement the controversial measures in the Digital Economy Act designed to discourage illegal file sharing.

The telecoms watchdog has also produced a timeline of when it will flesh out the plans and send them to the European Commission for approval.

The Digital Economy Act was passed into law on 9 April, and outlines new obligations for internet service providers (ISPs) to cut down on illegal downloading.

Ofcom said in a statement on its web site that the process will start with ISPs notifying web users if they have been caught by copyright holders downloading illegal content. ISPs will need to maintain a list of users who do not challenge multiple notifications, Ofcom said.

If these letters fail to act as a sufficient deterrent, and illegal file sharing is not cut by 70 percent, the account user's internet access may then be restricted using "technical measures".

However, in a move that will please privacy campaigners, Ofcom stated that users should be given enough information in the letters of notification to challenge the accusations, and that they must also have access to a "robust and effective appeals mechanism".

Finally, Ofcom said that copyright holders will be able to gain access to the lists kept by ISPs only through a court order.

The need for judicial involvement in the process is likely to please digital rights organisations that have expressed concerns over the privacy implications of the Act.

Ofcom said that it will provide quarterly reports to the secretary of state estimating the levels of unlawful file sharing and assessing the extent of legal action by copyright owners.

The watchdog added that the measures would be introduced and governed through a code of practice, which it would approve, implement and enforce. Ofcom said that it would draft the code itself or let industry decide the details, and that the deadline for the code is in eight months' time.

This deadline includes a requirement for the code to be approved by the European Commission (EC), a process which takes a minimum of three months. Therefore it will need to be submitted to the EC by September.

Ofcom explained that it is keen to engage with stakeholders when writing the code, and will publish the first draft for consultation by May.

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