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Mandybill petition puts hacks in a spin

Fantasies of flip-flop on filesharers

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A rash of reports fantasise today that the government has "dumped" or "abandoned" plans to boot the most persistent illegal filesharers off the internet.

The source of the reports is a sentence in a lengthy response to a petition on the Downing Street website, which reads: "We will not terminate the accounts of infringers - it is very hard to see how this could be deemed proportionate except in the most extreme – and therefore probably criminal – cases."

A famous victory then for civil liberties groups and TalkTalk boss Charles Dunstone? Er, no.

The Digital Economy Bill - known to friends and opponents as the Mandybill - does not propose that persistent copyright infringement via peer-to-peer could result in internet accounts being terminated.

Rather, it suggests temporary suspension of internet access following warnings. There's never been a suggestion that the ISP would be forced to terminate accounts and lose business. Indeed, it's entirely possible that those who are suspended will continue to be charged.

As things stand, the provisions of the Mandybill mandating suspensions and other technical restrictions will be activated once Ofcom has measured the impact of warnings alone on the overall level of illegal filesharing, after an unspecified period to be determined by the business secretary. If it hasn't dropped by 70 per cent the regime will be introduced.

It remains to be decided how long the suspensions will last. UK Music has previously suggested 72 hours on the third warning and up to two months after a fifth warning.

The Open Rights Group and TalkTalk, who have jointly campaigned against the measure, have both issued press releases today to point this out the Downing Street petition response makes no difference to the substance of the Bill. They correctly point out that by denying it will do something it never planned to do, the government has spun the press into believing whatever it wants to believe.

As you were, then. ®

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