Ofcom says illegal file-sharers will begin receiving warning letters regarding their online activities as from summer 2013.
The warning letters are the first-step in the three-strikes rule set out in the Digital Economy Act in a bid to tackle net piracy. The Act, which was made law in April last year, states that those thought to have illegally file-shared
digital files will be issued with a warning letter in a bid to educate the recipient that their online activities are illegal. Repeat offenders could also be faced with technical measures including having their net connection
throttled or even be disconnected from the web.
Ofcom was tasked with setting out an obligations code and under its proposals, which have yet to finalised, the letters will notify web users that their connection has been used to illegally share files and how they can protect their net
connection if they think its been hijacked and used by someone else to obtain the illegal content.
Furthermore, ISPs will be required to monitor web users thought to be illegally file-sharing and prove they can match personal details to the IP addresses being used.
Campbell Cowie, director of internet policy at Ofcom revealed the time scale a Westminster eForum on the Digital Economy Act. Cowie also said that he expects ISPs to begin implement the technology to fulfil the measure as well as creating an
independent appeals body next year.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has said that the government will not bring forward regulations on site-blocking established as reserve powers in the Digital Economy Act, following a technical Ofcom report. The ministry added:
We are keen to explore the issues raised by Ofcom's report and will be doing more work on what measures can be pursued to tackle online copyright infringement.
Ofcom's report effectively kicked web-blocking into the long grass. Ofcom examined various techniques and concluded that blocking discrete URLs or web addresses is not practical or desirable as a primary approach. Ofcom instead recommends
something critics might see as more draconian, however:
The report says that if site-blocking is adopted, it should be at the domain level. But such a technique will become harder, when digital signing is more common. So it recommends examining further measures such as transparent proxy-blocking
(cleanfeed) or hybrid routing technology:
In the medium to longer term we consider that deep packet inspection techniques are likely to provide a more robust approach to blocking than DNS. Although costly to implement today, we would expect that costs will fall as
the larger ISPs invest in DPI devices for other purposes. However, for it to be part of a legislative approach the cost burden for smaller ISPs would need careful evaluation as would legal concerns related to compatibility with privacy, data
protection and interception rules.
Ofcom will review sections of the Digital Economy Act to see if they are workable following public comments submitted in the Your Freedom exercise.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked Ofcom to assess whether the Act's reserve powers to enable courts to block websites dedicated to copyright infringement could work.
The site-blocking measures need secondary legislation before they can be introduced and the review will inform the Government's decision on the next steps to take.
Hunt said: The Digital Economy Act seeks to protect our creative economy from online copyright infringement, which industry estimates costs them £400 million a year. I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used
exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content. But it is not clear whether the site blocking provisions in the Act could work in practice so I have asked Ofcom to address this question. Before we consider introducing site-blocking we need
to know whether these measures are possible.
The review will look at areas such as whether it is possible for internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to the sites, how robust such a block could be and whether specific parts of a website can be blocked effectively.