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Ofcom Lets Small ISPs Off Filesharing Laws

Ofcom plans to exempt small ISPs from the Digital Economy Act’s anti file-sharing measures

Internet Service Providers with less than 400,000 customers will be exempt from one of the most onerous sections of the Digital Economy Act, under proposals from Ofcom.

Ofcom has been working on a new code of practice for ISPs that have to deal with copyright infringement claims, under the terms of the controversial Digital Economy Bill, which was passed into law in early April, despite only two hours of debate in the Houses of Parliament. The bill requires ISPs to act against users who persistently infringe copyright by sharing files illegally.

Smaller ISPs Are Exempt

Under the new Ofcom proposals, ISPs with less than 400,000 subscribers will not have to issue warning letters to customers accused of illegally downloading content.

And it seems that mobile broadband operators will also be exempt, at least for now. Apart from anything else, mobile broadband is set up in a way which makes it much harder to track file-sharers according to several reports.

It is believed that there are currently only six to eight ISPs with more than 400,000 broadband customers in the UK market, and these large ISPs will be liable to follow the rules set down in the Act.

The reason why the large ISPs will have to toe the line, whilst the smaller operators can escape the regulations, is that most Ofcom agrees with the ISPs that they simply have not been given enough time to develop a code for something so complex.

“Due to the short timescales Ofcom has been working to, the Code will be instructional rather than setting out line-by-line what is required,” blogged Trefor Davies, Chief Technology Officer at ISP Timico. “For example, instead of dictating a standard approach for a CIR (Copyright Infringement Report), those affected will have to tell Ofcom how they will go about it and Ofcom will then approve it or recommend changes.”

But Large ISPs Have To Comply

But it seems that the large ISPs such as TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Media, will have to compile for now, despite opposition from the ISP community.

Late last year, Virgin Media revealed that it was already trialling a tool that could monitor illegal file-sharing over the Internet, although the European Commission said it would investigate the legality of the software.

The first draft of Ofcom’s code is expected to be published in the following few weeks, with a further statement to come in September. The code must then be submitted to the European Commission for approval.

Once it has been given the EC blessing, Ofcom will have to update the Secretary of State with quarterly reports detailing the levels of illegal file-sharing in the UK, as well as the extent of legal action by copyright owners.

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