Ofcom Weeks Away from Publishing ISP Three Strikes Rules in UK

The UK version of the three strikes law as laid out in the Digital Economy Bill is nearing the next step to implementation. Ofcom, an independent regulator in the UK is now reportedly weeks away from publishing an ISP code of conduct which lays out the rules for disconnecting file-sharers.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Alleged file-sharers in the UK could be one step closer to having their connections terminated on the basis of three allegations of copyright infringement. That’s what we’ve learned from a report on ZDNet.

The Initial Obligations Code of Practice will lay out the technical measures and actions service providers have to take against suspected unlawful file-sharers, such as sending warning letters and disconnection of broadband access.

While legal challenges have meant the release of the code has been delayed, a draft is now expected to be published by Ofcom in June, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said on Tuesday.

“The point upon which we lost in both cases has meant that we have had to re-set how the costs of the process will be apportioned. This in turn has led to the Initial Obligations Code being delayed. However, we anticipate that the code will be published in June 2012,” the DCMS said in a government response (PDF) to recommendations from the Film Policy Review Panel.

The release of the code of practice, required by the Digital Economy Act (DEA), has been repeatedly pushed back due to legal challenges from ISPs concerned by the cost of implementing the anti-piracy measures. The first draft appeared in May 2010, and no final version has yet been published.

The highly controversial Digital Economy Bill was passed in 2010 by the House of Commons. At the time, many including MPs warned of a frightening new era of the Internet in which this bill would result in unintended consequences. The Digital Economy Bill was set to include traffic shaping, monitoring of fie-sharing activity, site blocking, banning public Wi-Fi and account suspension (ala three strikes law) to name a few.

While implementation at the time seemed like it was going to be happening real soon, delays in the implementation were largely thanks to ISPs launching legal challenges to it, asking whether or not fundamental rights were being violated to name one example of the complaints.

Now, OfCom is set to publish the Initial Obligations Code of Practice which tells ISPs how they are to conduct themselves with regards to file-sharing.

While it’s difficult to have much hope in this, it’ll still be interesting to see what the final rules will be. One big question is the costs. I personally think that if, for example, record labels managed to get ISPs to start monitoring for unauthorized activity, then they should foot the costs of implementing such a system. I think it’s highly unfair that ISPs should foot the bill for such a system given that we’re talking about private commercial interests here. We hope to examine this code of practice when it is published.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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