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Coalition pledges free appeals for filesharers

Digital Economy Act incoming

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People accused of unlawful filesharing by the music and film industries will have access to a free appeals system, the coalition government said today.

Tory broadband minister Ed Vaizey said there will be no cost for the public to appeal against Digital Economy Act (DEA) copyright infringement notices, at least initially.

However, the Department for Business will closely monitor the free appeals system, and reserve the right to introduce "small fees" later, because it "risks the possibility of large numbers of unnecessary appeals". Appeals will be heard by a new tribunal.

The government also confirmed today that the majority of the cost of the DEA regime will be borne by rights holders. ISPs will cover the remaining 25 per cent under secondary legislation announced today.

The settlement follows a blueprint drawn up by the Labour government, which introduced the DEA against loud complaints from the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg's party now find themselves implementing it as the junior partner in the coalition.

"We expect the measures will benefit our creative economy by some £200m per year and as rights holders are the main beneficiaries of the system, we believe our decision on costs is proportionate to everyone involved," said Vaizey.

Rights holders had campaigned for a 50-50 split with ISPs, who argued they should not bear any cost at all. The result is a simple "split the difference" compromise.

Meanwhile Ofcom is still consulting on the details of the regime of data gathering and warning letters that will come into force in the first half of next year. If it fails to signficantly reduce illegal filesharing in 12 months, stronger sanctions against repeat infringers - such as speed restrictions and temporary suspension of access - will be triggered. ®

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