Plans to crack down on illegal downloads

12 February 2008
Internet users who illegally download films and music could be cut off from the web under new proposals to be unveiled next week.

The move is part of a government plan to force internet service providers (ISPs) to crack down on the estimated six million broadband users who illegally download files every year.

A ‘three-strike’ plan has been proposed, under which people suspected of illegally downloading material will receive a warning e-mail for the first offence, a suspension for the second and the termination of their internet contract if caught a third time

Broadband suppliers who fail to enforce the regime would be prosecuted and guilty customers’ details could be made available to the courts. The government has yet to announce if information on offenders should be shared between ISPs.

Michael Phillips, product director at Broadband Choices agrees action must be taken against internet piracy but doesn’t think the current proposals will work.

“The proposals are effectively asking ISPs to penalize their best paying customers – those with large download limits are paying around £25-£30, compared to around £10 for standard download limits.”

The proposals will also require ISPs to implement extra levels of policing, on top of existing measures in place to deal with pornographic material. 
“ISPs will have to incur these huge costs, which will eventually filter through to customers in the increased cost of broadband,” said Phillips.

He is also concerned that with download technology advancing so quickly, and the popularity of peer-to-peer file sharing sites such as Limewire and Kazaa, it won’t take long before the ISPs are outfoxed. 

“And with the introduction of legitimate downloading, such as 4oD and BBC iPlayer, it is going to be incredibly difficult for ISPs to distinguish between legal and illegal downloads,” adds Phillips. “The proposals are just an easy answer in the short-term.”

The music and film industries claim illegal downloads cost them billions of pounds in lost revenue every year. Bands Radiohead and The Charlatons gave fans the option to download their music online for free in an experiment last year, and Jamiroquai and Oasis are rumored to be considering similar moves. 

“ISPs will be fighting a losing battle under the proposals. Digital content owners in the film and music industry need to change their attitudes towards downloading before a long-term solution is reached,” said Philips.

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