UK limits illegal downloading proposals to large ISPs

A draft code of practice designed to eliminate illegal downloading has been published in the UK by Ofcom, but the proposals will only cover ISPs with over 400,000 customers.

SC Magazine reports that the code of practice is set to be included in the controversial Digital Economy Act 2010 and is expected to be in force by early 2011, provided it makes it past the long approval stages.

The 400,000 subscriber threshold means that small ISPs and mobile phony companies will not be subject to the new rules, but BT, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, Sky, Orange, O2, and the Post Office will.

This means that the big UK internet providers may have to cut the net connections of users found to be infringing on copyright, which is a topic of much contention at the moment. A similar model has already come into force in Ireland where the largest ISP has agreed to cut the broadband connections of suspected pirates after a series of warnings.

Ofcom is recommending a three strikes procedure of warnings, but also wants ISPs to keep an anonymous list of “serial infringers” which film, music, and software companies can then make onymous through a court order, effectively resulting in the ISPs handing over their customers in chains. Ofcom plans to bring in an appeals process, but not everyone is pleased with the proposals.

“This is another extremely rushed process, forced by the Digital Economy Act’s absurd timetables. There are huge unanswered questions, not least whether innocent people will have to pay to appeal,” said Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group. “The Government needs to draw a clear line between the notifications and potential disconnection regimes. Otherwise, Ofcom can’t tell people what these accusations mean, which is absurd.”