Ofcom tells ISPs to enforce copyright rulesOfcom proposes code to protect online copyright

26 June 2012

Updated to online copyright draft code proposed by Ofcom

Ofcom has published a draft code that would require broadband providers to tell customers when their internet connection has been used to infringe copyright. 

At the same time as notifying the customer, the broadband providers must explain the steps they can take to protect their network from being used to infringe copyright and tell them where they can find licensed content online. It is hoped that the measures will encourage internet users to download music and films through legal channels.

Broadband providers will notify customers of copyright breaches by letter with the first of these letters expected to drop through letterboxes in early 2014. 

Which? surveys thousands of broadband customers to find out which are the most satisfied. Find out which providers come out on top in the Which? broadband review.

Who could be affected?

The short answer is the majority of home broadband users could potentially be affected. When the code comes into practice it will cover the UK's biggest broadband providers. This means BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media will have to send notification letters to customers whose accounts are connected to reports of suspected online copyright infringement.

What will happen?

The draft code requires broadband providers to send letters to customers when their broadband account is connected to reports of suspected copyright infringement. These letters must be sent more than a month apart. 

Ofcom says, '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. The copyright owner may then seek a court order requiring the ISP to reveal the identity of the customer, with a view to taking legal action for infringement under the Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988.'

The right to appeal

Customers will have 20 working days to appeal an allegation through an independent appeals body who will be appointed by Ofcom. It will cost £20 to do so but this will be refunded if the appeal is successful. 

Which? believes people shouldn’t have to pay for the right to appeal and that this may deter people from calling to find out more information on how to prevent file-sharing. Therefore, the notification letters should make it clear where to find information free of charge and that this should be clearly separate from the appeals process. We are pleased to see that Ofcom has told providers to tell customers where they can go to find licensed content on the internet when notifying them of reported infringements. 

Why is Ofcom doing this?

The Digital Economy Act 2010 required Ofcom to implement and administer measures aimed at significantly reducing copyright infringement. A first draft of the code was consulted on in May 2010 and though the key proposals are unchanged in todays announcement, a number of revisions have been made to the details. 

As well as the requirements on broadband providers, Ofcom has also said it expects copyright owners to run campaigns to help educate consumers and develop attractive online services. 

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