People who illegally download music and films may have their internet access stopped under moves being considered by the government.
The plans could see internet service providers (ISPs) being forced to take action against those who access pirate material.
Anyone suspected of illegal downloads could then be subject to a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy.
Under plans leaked to a newspaper, they would first receive an warning e-mail from their ISP, followed by a suspension, and then finally have their contract terminated.
The government is expected to reveal details in a green paper next week.
It’s reported that broadband firms who fail to take action could be prosecuted, and details of suspected customers made available to the courts.
Major ISPs such as BT, Virgin and Tiscali, are already believed to be in talks with the entertainment industry over introducing a voluntary scheme for policing pirate activity.
It’s estimated that about 6 million people download files illegally every year in the UK, costing music and film companies billions in lost revenue.
The BPI, the trade body that represents the UK record industry, welcomed the government move.
BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said: ‘We simply want ISPs to advise customers if their account is being used to distribute music illegally, and then, if the advice is ignored, enforce their own terms and conditions about abuse of the account.
‘But despite some agreements in principle, the ISPs refuse to do this on any meaningful scale.
‘For years, ISPs have built a business on other people’s music. Yet they have paid nothing to the creators of that music, and done little or nothing to address illegal downloading via their networks.’