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UK Copyright Code Of Conduct Published

by Robin Pilgrim,, London

14 June 2010

A proposed code of practice which implements legislative measures aimed at reducing online copyright infringement has been published by Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, as part of its new duties under the Digital Economy Act 2010.

The draft code sets out how and when Internet Service Providers (ISPs) covered by the code will send notifications to their subscribers to inform them of allegations that their accounts have been used for copyright infringement.

In passing the Act, Parliament’s intention was that Ofcom should apply the obligations in a proportionate way, with the code initially covering only the larger fixed-line ISPs, but with the clear message that, should levels of copyright infringement on other networks, including mobile, increase then those ISPs will similarly be required to comply with the obligations.

Ofcom proposes that fixed-line ISPs with over 400,000 subscribers will be covered initially. This would mean that the UK's seven largest ISPs – BT, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, Sky, Orange, O2 and Post Office – will be covered by the code from the outset.

Under the code, ISPs will have to record the number of notifications sent to their subscribers and maintain a list of alleged serial copyright infringers. Copyright holders can then request information on this list and pursue a court order to identify serial infringers and take legal action against them.

Ofcom is proposing a three-stage notification process for ISPs to inform subscribers of copyright infringements and proposes that subscribers which have received three notifications within a year may be included in a list requested by a copyright owner.

The regulator said that an "independent, robust" appeals mechanism will be established for consumers who believe they have received incorrect notifications.

However, Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, warned that the controversial legislation, which was rushed through parliament just before last month's general election, remained 'flawed' and raises many unanswered questions, including whether innocent subscribers will have to pay to appeal.

"This is another extremely rushed process, forced by the Digital Economy Act's absurd timetables," he said.

"Government needs to draw a clear line between the notifications and potential disconnection regimes. Otherwise, Ofcom can't tell people what these accusations mean, which is absurd," he added.

TAGS: court | business | commerce | law | intellectual property | copyright | United Kingdom | internet | e-commerce | legislation | telecoms

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