U.K. piracy crackdown to kickstart 'three strikes' for copyright infringers

U.K.'s communications regulator outlines how British ISPs must inform file-sharers of allegedly illegal actions and of the potential of facing rights-holders in court.

Zack Whittaker Writer-editor
Zack Whittaker is a former security editor for CNET's sister site ZDNet.
Zack Whittaker
2 min read

Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, published draft code today that would require ISPs to notify suspected pirates via "copyright infringement reports."

Such reports would tell the ISP customers that their Web activity is being monitored, inform them of ways to find legal online content, such as through paid services, and alert them that they could face legal action as a result of infringing copyright.

Today's draft code puts the U.K.'s Digital Economy Act, a law aimed at curbing piracy, into action via a three-strike system, or "graduated response."

Under Ofcom's draft code, ISPs would also be required to keep records of how many reports have been sent to each subscriber, otherwise known as the "copyright infringement list," which signals the introduction of the three-strike system.

Once an Internet user has been placed on the copyright infringement list and has been notified three times in a year, copyright owners will be able to seek a court order to uncover the user's personal details in order to begin legal action against them.

However, Internet users will be able to appeal each report at a cost of 20 pounds ($31) -- which will be refunded if they are successful.

ISPs, which must contribute 75 percent of the cost of running the plan, could also be required to take practical steps against repeat offenders including limiting their broadband speed, or even suspending their account altogether. However, such measures would require additional legislation, according to Ofcom, and could only be considered following a year of sending out notification letters.

The U.K.'s largest broadband providers -- including BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk Group, and Virgin Media -- which account for more than 92 percent of all U.K. broadband subscriptions between them -- will all have to adhere to the code once it comes into force.

The draft code is subject to public consultation, which will run until July 26, as well as a separate consultation on cost allocation, which will run until September 18.

Ofcom expects the first notification letters be sent in "early 2014," a time frame partly due to the logistical requirements of setting up an appeals body, a spokesperson for the regulator told CNET.

The first notification letters should have been sent back in 2011, but legal appeals from BT and TalkTalk, which argued the legislation was in breach of European law, delayed the process.