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Ofcom publishes latest three-strikes code – time for more consultation

By | Published on Tuesday 26 June 2012

Warning Letter

Media regulator OfCom has published a new draft of its copyright code, the document that outlines how the three-strikes anti-file-sharing system put in place by the Digital Economy Act in 2010 will work.

Well, the initial element of it anyway, in which letters are sent by internet service providers to suspected file-sharers warning them that copyright infringement has occurred on their net connection, when the net provider is made aware that a user has been sharing unlicensed content by a rights owner.

A ‘strike-three’ sanction does not yet exist (and would require further parliamentary involvement to instigate), so at the moment the so called graduated response system would simply provide a slightly smoother framework via which content owners could file legal proceedings against prolific file-sharers, something rights owners can already do, of course, and have on occasion, though in the main UK music companies have shied away from prolific file-sharer litigation.

The new code is a development of one first drafted almost as soon as the 2010 DEA was passed. Only a few changes have been made in the subsequent two years of development, one regulates the way rights owners gather evidence against suspected file-sharers, another adds extra obligations on what information ISPs must provide in their warning letters, and a third refinement clarifies (and limits) how accused file-sharers can appeal if they believe allegations are incorrect.

OfCom will now further consult stakeholders, including rights owners, net firms and consumer groups, about the latest draft, with a view to presenting the code to parliament later this year (subject to an earlier review by the European Commission). As previously reported, it’s thought that, even if this draft of the code is approved by the end of this year, it could be 2014 before warning letters are actually sent out, meaning any strike-three measures wouldn’t be on the table until 2015.

As also previously reported, various execs from across the music industry have been critical regards quite how long it has taken for this code to be written since the DEA was rushed through parliament in 2010, though external factors haven’t helped, in particular BT and TalkTalk trying to have the copyright element of the Act overturned through judicial review.

Commenting on the latest draft of OfCom’s code, Geoff Taylor, boss of record label trade body the BPI, told CMU: “It’s time to get down to business and start implementing the law to educate consumers about illegal downloading, so that artists and creators are fairly rewarded for their hard work”.

There’s more info about the code at here.