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One court order could gag EVERY ISP in Denmark

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Internet service providers (ISPs) and copyright holders in Denmark have agreed on a framework that would see all ISPs in the country block access to copyright-infringing content if one of the providers is ordered to do so by a court.

The Danish Ministry of Culture said that it would work with ISPs and rights holders groups to develop a new "written Code of Conduct" that would "formalise" the agreement on content blocking.

The ministry's plans to issue "guidelines for blocking access to illegal services on the internet" is just one of a raft of new measures it announced it would take to help combat online copyright infringement.

"Rightsholders can bring an action against a telecommunications company in order to get the phone company to block customers' access to an illegal service," the ministry said, according to an automated translation of its plans (5-page Word document, in Danish). "If a court comes to the phone company to block access to the service, the decision will only apply to the telecommunications company.

"Telecommunications industry and rights-holders have entered into an agreement about the procedure in cases involving blocking access to illegal services on the Internet. The parties have indicated that they will formalize this in the form of a written Code of Conduct," it said. "The agreement assumes that all telecommunications companies will respect the final decision of the courts that a telecommunications company block customers' access to an illegal service."

"This means that holders only need to take legal action against a telecom company, then the other carriers follow the decision. This is an automated process where the rights holders need only contact one organization / one telephone company, which will then make sure to communicate this decision to the other telcos. Additionally, the parties indicated that they will try to spread the concept to other relevant parties such as linking to the offending services," it added.

The measure is one of eight initiatives the Danish Ministry of Culture has said it will pursue to combat internet piracy. The Ministry said that it plans to lead a forum on "contractual enforcement solutions", which would see online service providers obliged to remove illegal content from their services if licensed to provide access to legal content.

"Such solutions could contribute to the spread of legal services and to reduce levels of piracy," the ministry said. "With the aim to contribute to this development and accelerate the development of voluntary agreements Ministry of Culture will launch a forum for dialogue between rights holders and providers of network services with creative content."

Other measures the ministry has committed to include efforts aimed at developing more platforms for legal digital content and leading awareness-raising campaigns on the legal services that are available and the "consequences" that arise when individuals do access pirated material.

Further plans include efforts to help internet users use more secure internet connections to prevent others' using their connections to download illegal content.

In announcing its initiatives the ministry said that the country had backed away from a scheme that would have seen suspected copyright infringers issued with warning letters about their activity from their ISPs. However, it suggested that the 'letter model' may be deployed if the package of measures the Ministry has outlined does not adequately tackle infringement.

"The model assumes that the telecommunications companies on behalf of rights holders send information letters to Internet subscribers whose Internet connection can be associated with copyright infringement on the internet," the ministry said. "Minister of Cultural Affairs has decided not to introduce a letter model in Denmark at present. Minister of Culture would instead await the effect of the other initiatives in efforts to combat piracy on the internet."

Annual assessments of "the development of creative content on the Internet" will be conducted and evaluation made of whether further measures are needed to "contribute to a stronger enforcement of copyright," the ministry's plans said.

"With this package of initiatives, we focus on some initiatives that can strengthen the development of more legal services and which also may motivate consumers to choose their legal solutions," Danish Culture Minister Uffe Elbaek said in a statement. "I believe that it is the right way to go. The initiatives also focus on the licensees' efforts to reduce piracy. We have also decided not to introduce the so-called letter model at this time."

In the UK the government has said that a new code of practice setting out new anti-piracy measures and procedures is expected to be published later this month.

In its draft code of practice previously published, telecoms regulator Ofcom said that internet users should receive three warning letters from their ISP if they are suspected of copyright infringement online.

Details of illegal file-sharers that receive more than three letters in a year would be added to a blacklist, the draft code said. Copyright holders would have access to the list to enable them to identify infringers.

The government has also facilitated discussions aimed at establishing other voluntary frameworks for combating internet piracy.

Copyright © 2012, Out-Law.com

Out-Law.com is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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