Britain Targets Illegal Downloads

Graphic: Jeff Berlin
British Communications Minister Lord Stephen Carter has revealed more details of his plan to create a digital rights agency that's designed to help combat illegal file-sharing.

The agency was one of the proposals in Carter's Digital Britain report, which was released at the end of January. It is hoped that the agency will help ISPs and audio and visual content creators work together to create a way to combat illegal file-sharing.

Illegal file-sharing has been one of the biggest problems associated with the web for a number of years. According to a recent report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 95 percent of all online music downloads are completed illegally.

In July last year, six of the UK's largest ISPs -- including BT, the Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media -- signed an agreement with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) that they would issue warning letters to customers suspected of illegally downloading digital files.

The agreement was the first step toward implementing a 'three strikes rule' that would result in illegal file sharers having their broadband connection suspended and possibly even terminated if they continue to offend after being issued with a warning letter. However, despite signing the agreement, none of the ISPs, apart from Virgin Media, appear to have started issuing letters.

Carter, who revealed his plans to the government's Business and Enterprise Committee, warned that if the two sides can not come to an agreement on how to handle illegal downloaders, he will either be forced to introduce legislation or wash his hands of the problem completely.

Carter said the 'Rights Agency' would be tasked with encouraging legal downloading, finding a "technical copyright support solution" to make illegal downloading more difficult and setting common standards in regards to licensing fees, which may help stop rows between online media providers and content creators. YouTube and the Performing Right Society are currently locked in such a battle over the licensing fees the video-sharing site pays when users stream music videos.

According to Carter, the agency would work in conjunction with legislation to prevent illegal downloads and that he still expected ISPs to hand over details of perpertrators, but was not letting them spy on web users.

He told the Guardian: "What we are proposing is that the ISPs would only be required to hand over information on the basis of evidence provided by the rights holders and there would only be a requirement to hand over personal data when it is the subject of a court order. The snooping accusation is colourful but it is not real".

See also: ISP Eircom cuts off illegal downloaders

This story, "Britain Targets Illegal Downloads" was originally published by PC Advisor (UK).

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