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Mandy declares 'three strikes' war on illegal file sharers

Hopes 'legislate, enforce' mantra will beat piracy

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Lord Mandelson has reiterated the government’s plans to clamp down on illegal P2P file sharers by declaring a “three-pronged approach” to tackle online piracy in the UK.

The biz secretary confirmed today that proposals on unlawful file sharing, outlined in the government’s Digital Britain consultation paper in June, would form the basis of measures in the upcoming Digital Economy Bill in late November.

Mandelson, who was speaking at the government’s C&binet conference on the creative industries this morning, said that ISPs, the creative industries and government needed to work together on “education, enforcement and new business models to discourage unlawful downloading.”

According to reports, Mandy warned web users that “consequence free” illegal file sharing was over, and added that internet connections of P2P crooks, who ignore warnings, could be blocked from the summer of 2011 - though only as a last resort.

“The creative sector has faced challenges to protected formats before. But the threat faced today from online infringement, particularly unlawful file sharing, is of a different scale altogether. We cannot sit back and do nothing,” said Mandelson, who cited music industry claims that only one in every 20 tracks downloaded in the UK were done so lawfully.

“Only persistent rule breakers would be affected - and there would be an independent, clear and easy appeals process to ensure that the correct infringer is penalised.”

Mandelson was also at pains to to reassure ISPs that they weren't expected to bear the brunt of the cost involved with "implementing and delivering the notifications to suspected infringers."

He said a "flat fee" per notification would be set, with rights holders footing the bill. But he didn't reveal how much the flat fee would cost.

In August the government told ISPs to write letters to people caught illicitly downloading copyrighted material, and added that persistent offenders could face the threat of court action.

Mandy also said this morning that consumers needed to be educated about the “value of intellectual property rights” to change public perceptions about downloadable content.

He called on new business models that would effectively push down prices, making them more attractive to customers who might otherwise download files for free.

“A 'legislate and enforce' approach to beating piracy can only ever be part of the solution. The best long-term solution has to be a market in which those who love music and film, for example, can find a deal that makes acting unlawfully an unnecessary risk," he said.

The Digital Britain report, which was written by Lord Carter and published in June this year, stopped short of mandating a mechanism for persistent copyright infringers to be disconnected. However, it did suggest port blocking, protocol blocking, URL and IP address blocking, bandwidth capping, bandwidth shaping and filtering of specific content as sanctions.

Under the proposals, communications watchdog Ofcom would be granted powers to step in, either by slowing internet connections or blocking access to piracy websites used by anyone who persists in illegal file sharing online.

By late August, the government unexpectedly revived plans for laws to disconnect persistent illegal filesharers, in a move to delight the entertainment industry and anger ISPs. At the time, Mandelson's Department for Business said responses to the Digital Britain consultation had persuaded it to reconsider introducing the threat of disconnection from the internet.

Treasury minister Stephen Timms, who took charge of the government’s Digital Britain plans in August, previously said that UK.gov was hoping to reduce illegal file sharing in Blighty by 70 per cent within a year. ®

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