UK 'three-strike' piracy scheme delayed – again

06-06-2013

UK Internet users accused of infringing copyright will not begin receiving warnings until at least the “latter half of 2015”, minutes from a government meeting show.

The minutes, published on June 4 from roundtable talks held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), reveal another delay to the ‘three-strike’ graduated response scheme provided by the Digital Economy Act (DEA).

Under the DEA, major UK Internet service providers (ISPs) will warn customers that their accounts have been linked to online infringement. If a customer receives three or more letters within a year, rights owners can request their details in order to take court action. There will be an appeal system available.

The warnings were originally supposed to be ready for 2011, but that date has since been amended, and the most recent estimation was early 2014.

Since it was approved in 2010, the DEA has hit several stumbling blocks, the most recent being who pays for its graduated response regime, which will be overseen by Ofcom, the UK’s communications’ regulator.

Ofcom has proposed that rights owners bear 75 percent of the costs, while ISPs should account for 25 percent. While that debate continues, the Treasury is now assessing whether some of those costs would amount to taxation – and therefore require approval.

The minutes of the DCMS meeting, which was held on May 15, 2013, say: “Once the costs SI [statutory instrument] is laid in parliament, Ofcom will consider whether re-consultation on aspects of the code will be required”.

An Ofcom spokesman said its code is on hold until the government finalises, and parliament approves, the DEA’s costs. Then, Ofcom will launch a new consultation on a potentially altered code, the spokesman said, before it is sent to the European Commission for approval.

The debate over costs is one of the reasons why the DEA has now been pushed back further. A DCMS spokesman said: “Various delays, not least a lengthy court case [brought by ISPs BT and TalkTalk] means notifications will not go out until the end of 2015 or later. This is regrettable, but we are happy to see industry investigating an industry-led alternative.”

Commenting on the 'three-strike' system, Adam Rendle, a lawyer at Taylor Wessing LLP in London, said: “These notices will make it very clear what is and isn’t copyright infringement and that people should be downloading legally, not using, for example, The Pirate Bay.”

“They will be part of a matrix of measures that rights owners can take – another piece of the anti-piracy jigsaw.”

Rendle noted, however, that there are still no “substantive proposals about what the adverse consequences of reaching the three strikes would be”.

While the UK’s DEA has been delayed over the past few years, similar graduated response systems have been implemented in countries including France. But the Hadopi agency, which is responsible for such a system in France, has struggled to convince the government that it is effectively tackling illegal downloading, and is expected to be scaled down.

This article was first published on 07 June 2013 in World IP Review

digital economy act, three-strikes piracy, hadopi, dcms, ofcom

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