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Ofcom sets out file sharing code of practice

ISPs must maintain a copyright infringers' list

The scales of justice held up

Ofcom, the communications regulator, has published a draft of its illegal file sharing code of practice (the Code).

The Code details when and how the UK’s seven largest internet service providers (ISPs) – BT, Orange, O2, the Post Office, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin Media – should send out notifications to their subscribers, informing them that their accounts have been used for copyright infringement.

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

It also sets out the number of copyright breaches that must be reached before a subscriber is placed on a copyright infringers’ list. Copyright holders can then request the data from this list and obtain a court order to identify serial infringers and take legal action against them.

The Code also contains details of Ofcom’s proposals to establish an independent and robust subscriber appeals mechanism for consumers who believe they have received incorrect notifications; arrangements for enforcement; dealing with industry disputes; and sharing the costs arising from the code.

What Which? said

Richard Hyde, Which?’s economic policy research assistant, welcomed the draft Code, but expressed concern with the shortened timeframe. Public consultations are usually held for 12 weeks.

‘The Code is a crucial element in the anti illicit file sharing provisions in the Digital Economy Act,’ he said. ‘However, the timetable for devising and consulting on it is significantly shorter than usual.

‘Despite our concerns over this truncated timetable, Which?, in conjunction with other consumer and citizen bodies, has agreed some key consumer principles that we believe should form the bedrock of the Code. 

‘These principles would ensure the processes regulated by the Code are fair to consumers and that false accusations and mistakes in the system are minimised,’ he explained.

The consultation

The Code is currently undergoing a nine-week consultation, which ends on 30 July, with stakeholders including ISPs, consumer and citizen rights groups, and rights holders. 

Ofcom said it expects the Code, subject to approval from the European Commission, to be in force in early 2011.

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