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IP minister rules out 'three strikes' disconnection law

Pirates breathe 'Arrr!' of relief

The Government minister responsible for intellectual property has ruled out a 'three strikes' law denying internet access to illegal file sharers. David Lammy said cutting off users was not "the right road" for UK law makers.

The French Government has attempted to create a 'three strikes and you're out' law but has been thwarted by parliament.

The plan, which is promoted by rights-holding content industries such as the record and film businesses, involves internet subscribers receiving two warnings about illegal file-sharing activity and then being cut off from the internet.

The UK Government has previously threatened the internet service provider (ISP) industry with such a law. Then-IP minister Lord Triesman said in early 2008 that the Government would pass legislation if ISPs and content owners could not reach agreement by autumn.

A partial agreement was reached by autumn of last year that stopped short of terminating subscribers' access and involved a trial of 1,000 written warnings to suspected copyright infringers.

Lammy has now told The Observer newspaper, though, that disconnection is off the Government agenda.

"It is for the French to determine what is right for them," he said of the three-strikes policy, "but for us here we do not believe that would be the right road to go down."

In its Digital Britain report the Government recently proposed the creation of a 'rights agency' to encourage compliance with copyright laws. It has asked companies that produce copyrighted material to contribute to a consultation on exactly what that agency would be and how it would operate.

The Government said at the time that any anti-piracy legislation would be affected by the industry's participation in the rights agency.

"However clear the Government's commitment to tackling piracy we cannot, through legislation, provide anything like the whole answer to this complex area and the answer that we do find might prove to be short lived, even counter-productive if we are forced to be prescriptive, and that pushes infringement towards more difficult to detect methods," said the Government's consultation.

Lammy told The Observer that there will be anti-piracy legislation to back up the work of the rights agency, but that the laws must not be too specific or exhaustive.

"In the end, the solutions are going to be commercial solutions. They are going to be solutions that are about ensuring people pay for content, but the ease of paying is there," he said.

Lammy said that solutions to the problem will also have to rely on individuals knowing more about copyright and the world of intellectual property becoming more accessible to people.

"Copyright has largely been the domain of lawyers and of creatives, or professionals like teachers," he said. "We are moving into an environment where so many people have to be aware of being on the right side of the law, but at the moment accessing those rights is not a straightforward process for the consumer."

Lammy spoke about exactly that problem on World IP Day last week. Addressing IP professionals he said, according to a Government copy of the speech, that "there are people missing from this room. The man in the London street. The farmer in the developing world. IP is still the resort of the professionals. That’s what I want to change".

"I want to see greater public understanding of the [copyright] system," he said. "I want to show the person in the street that the system actually works in their interests. I want them to see it helps keep them in work."

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