updated 04:40 pm EDT, Thu July 24, 2008
UK ISPs join piracy fight
The British music and film industries finally received the cooperation they have been seeking from Internet Service Providers in helping them fight illegal file downloading. A report on Thursday has six of the country's largest Internet providers sending warning letters to subscribers suspected of illegal file downloading and sharing. The decision to do so is commonly believed to be spurred by the British government, which announced earlier this year that it would impose its own laws forcing them to police how their services are used had they failed to cooperate voluntarily.
The government-mandated deal will see Virgin Media, Sky, Carphone Warehouse, BT, Orange and Tiscali send weekly letters over a 3-month period, advising suspected downloaders that their activities are being monitored. If the practice doesn't return agreeable results, the next step will involve working with UK media regulator Ofcom to create a Code of Practice. The code could involve measures such as terminating users' access after three offenses have been committed, slowing the violators' download and upload speeds, as well as filtering content to keep illegal tracks from being downloaded.
ISPs have been reluctant to take on the role of policing how their users use their service, fearing backlash and canceled subscriptions, arguing for the "safe harbor" principle which argues that they are simply providing the service and not responsible for how it's used. The move is expected to intimidate younger law-breakers and to introduce a chilling effect on some forms of illegal file sharing.
The studios themselves would continue work on educating consumers about illegal downloading and develop new legal solutions to their problem in addition to suing those who engaged in the practice previously.
It is estimated 6 million British Internet users illegally distribute copyrighted materials over the Internet, which music and movie publishers claim cost them millions in lost revenue.