Privacy group slams DEA Initial Obligations Code

The Open Rights Group has hit back at Ofcom’s Initial Obligations Code proposal, calling parts of it “a joke”.

The measures, which are to be published under the Digital Economy Act, advise the public on illegal downloading of music and films.

They also give ISPs pointers on notifying their customers if they believe they have been downloading pirated material. This includes advising where they can go to find legal music downloads, as well as how to protect their network from being used to infringe copyright.

The code will initially cover ISPs with more than 400,000 broadband-enabled fixed lines – currently BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk Group and Virgin Media.

These ISPs are required to send letters to customers, at least a month apart, informing them when their account is connected to reports of suspected online copyright infringement.

If a customer receives three letters or more within a 12-month period, anonymous information may be provided on request to copyright owners showing them which infringement reports are linked to that customer’s account.

However, the appeal side of the code states that those who feel they have been accused on wrong grounds must shell out £20 to appeal. The ORG said that the grounds for appeal had been narrowed and would only now include matters of factual accuracy of the accusation.

It added that the accusation also covered anyone using a connection, not just the person receiving a letter.

This meant that although commercial wi-fi operators had been excluded, libraries, hotels and bars sharing broadband connections over wi-fi would still have to refute accusations relating to their customers

Responding to these points, Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told TechEye: “Digital revenues are going up, the music and film industry are moving in the right direction, yet this cumbersome policy is still lumbering forward.

“Ofcom are being asked to put lipstick on a pig with this code.

“The appeals are a joke. The government has decided that ‘I didn’t do it’ is not a defence. Some people will almost certainly end up in court having done nothing wrong.”

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “These measures are designed to foster investment and innovation in the UK’s creative industries, while ensuring internet users are treated fairly and given help to access lawful content.

“Ofcom will oversee a fair appeals process, and also ensure that rights holders’ investigations under the code are rigorous and transparent.”