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Ofcom online piracy code targets ‘persistent infringers’

First customer notification letters not expected to be sent before 2014

28 June 2012

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Ofcom has said it wants copyright owners to use the latest version of its draft code on internet piracy to target “persistent infringers”.

The revised code, which the regulator is required to publish under the Digital Economy Act 2012, was published this week. It follows widespread concern over the activities of Davenport Lyons and former firm ACS Law in sending thousands of letters to web users accused of illegal downloading.

Ofcom said the code would initially cover ISPs with more than 400,000 broadband-enabled fixed lines – currently BT, Sky, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, 02 and Everything Everywhere.

Under the code, ISPs are required to send letters to customers, at least a month apart, informing when their account is connected to reports of suspected copyright infringement.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “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.

“Copyright owners can already seek such court orders under existing law, but the code is designed to enable them to focus legal action on the most persistent alleged infringers.”

Customers would have 20 days to challenge infringement allegations through an independent appeals body. National media reports this week centred on opposition to the £20 fee they would be charged.

The revised code gives Ofcom control of the evidence-gathering procedures used by copyright owners and the ISPs must include, in letters to subscribers, the number of copyright infringement reports connected to their account.

Ofcom said further measures to control copyright infringement, such as blocking sites or suspending accounts, would only be considered once the code had been in force for 12 months.

Before that, the regulator said the revised code would be reviewed by the European Commission and laid in parliament “around the end of 2012”. The first customer notification letters are not expected to be sent before 2014.

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