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Rights groups call for a fair file sharing code

Code should include independent appeals process
The scales of justice held up

A coalition of UK consumer and citizens’ rights groups is calling on the Office of Communications (Ofcom) to develop an illegal file sharing code of practice which treats consumers fairly.

The call, by the Communications Consumer Panel, was made on the same day Ofcom published a 10-week consultation on its Initial Obligations Code (IOC).

The IOC sets out the framework for how copyright holders and internet service providers should treat customers they suspect of being guilty of infringing copyright laws.

Have you been wrongly accused of illegal file sharing? Which?’s advice could help you fight the claim

The Communications Consumer Panel, made up of members from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Consumer Focus, the Open Rights Group and Which?, is calling on Ofcom to use its Customer Protection Principles (CPP), as the basis for developing the IOC.

This, the panel claims, would ensure that customers and citizens are properly protected. The CPP sets out the proposed rights customers should expect if a copyright holder accuses them of illicit file sharing. 

CPP key points

  • There should be sound evidence of wrongdoing before any action is taken against a consumer
  • Comprehensive and consistent information should be provided to all suspected repeat infringers and this should be written in plain English
  • Consumers must have the right to defend themselves
  • An independent and transparent appeals process is essential, at no cost to the customer
  • Information about affordable alternatives to online copyright infringement should be made widely available

The Which? view

Richard Hyde, Which?’s economic policy research assistant, said: ‘Which? broadly supports the proportionate and graduated response to tackling illicit file sharing set out in the Digital Economy Act.

‘We think the principles we’ve agreed upon should ensure fairness and urge Ofcom to use these as the basis for its IOC proposals.’

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