Feeds

Filesharing laws to hit websites and newsgroups too

Mandelson to 'future-proof' P2P restrictions

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The government is planning to award itself powers to change copyright law almost at will, in expectation that new anti-peer-to-peer laws will drive infringement to other services such as Rapidshare and newsgroups.

The measure, which is the most severe contained in the Digital Economy Bill published today, will be interpreted as a major victory for rights holder organisations. It will grant the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and his successors undprecedented control over civil enforcement of copyright.

The government said it will make the change "so that it, in future, new communications technologies allow creative content to be unlawfully copied in new ways, remedies can be developed and implemented more quickly and flexibly than might otherwise be possible, so that emerging threats can be addressed in a targeted way".

"We recognise there are other kinds of illegal downloading going on and will will need to tackle those as well," said Stephen Timms, the minister responsible for the Bill.

It lays the ground for successors to the enforcement regime proposed to reduce illegal peer-to-peer, also contained in the Bill.

Timms said the powers could not be used to create or modify any criminal offences. Any changes a business secretary might seek to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act using them would be subject to public consultation and debate in both Houses of Parliament, he added.

However, the powers will be exercised by statutory instrument rather than by primary legislation, meaning MPs and Lords could not block the government.

As previously announced, ministers will also use statutory instruments to impose "technical measures" - such as bandwidth restrictions, download limits and account suspensions - on ISP customers who persistently infringe copyright via peer-to-peer, which is currently the most common method.

Timms said account suspension would be a last resort, adding: "It may well prove to be the case that if we do use technical measures it may not be that one."

Earlier suggestions by Mandelson that the regime could be in force by summer 2012 were abandoned, with government spokespeople unable to commit to a timetable today.

The regime will work as follows; once the Digital Economy Bill is on the statute books - Timms noted it has cross-party support - ISPs will be obliged by law to notify their customers in writing when it is alleged they have been infringing copyright via peer-to-peer. The letter will be targeted based on lists of IP addresses harvested from BitTorrent swarms by rights holder organisations such as the BPI.

ISPs will also be required to keep records of how many letters are sent to each customer and share that information with the rights holders. If the BPI wants to identify a particular persistent filesharer, it would then apply for a court order and potentially sue in civil court.

Meanwhile Ofcom will be obliged to measure what effect the letters are having on the overall level of filesharing. It could do this via a Deep Packet Inspection-based traffic sampling system - as we revealed yesterday it has held talks with at least one vendor - or, an official suggested, judging it from the data provided by rights holders.

If after an unspecified period, determined by the business secretary, the overall level of infringement is not reduced by 70 per cent, a statutory instrument will be used to impose technical measures. Officials said the details of the technical measures will be tailored to each ISP, depending on the technology available and the nature of peer-to-peer infringement on their network.

Customers who want to challenge an allegation of illegal filesharing will be able to appeal to an Ofcom body in the first instance. If they are unsatisfied they will be able to take their case to a first tier tribunal.

Ofcom will also be responsible for working out the total cost of the process on a per-letter basis. ISPs will then charge rights holders a capped sum for each letter they send, which will effectively divide the costs between the two industries. The details of the split are under discussion, officials said.

ISPs have lobbied hard against the regime, but today Timms claimed the government now enjoys their support. "The importance of what we are doing is pretty widely recognised," he said, adding that BT and Virgin Media backed the regime. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.