The UK government and regulator, Ofcom, are taking the next steps to bring the Digital Economy Act’s mass notification system on copyright infringement into effect. After a court case slowed down the legislation, Ofcom’s new draft code is now expected to head to Parliament later this year. The code calls on ISPs to alert subscribers when their connection is suspected of being used to illegally share films or music. For now, the code covers ISPs with more than 400K broadband customers including BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin. BT and Talk Talk had previously argued that it was not for them to police their customers, but they lost on appeal. ISPs will also be required to explain to subscribers how they can protect their networks and where they can find licensed content. Copyright owners in turn are expected to invest in awareness campaigns and develop “attractive online services to offer their content.” The government, for its part, has put secondary legislation before Parliament that would see the notification system paid for by rights holders with ISPs paying a smaller element.
If a customer receives three or more notification letters in a 12-month period, copyright owners would then be able to request a list of infringement reports from the ISP and the IP numbers they’re linked to, but without any names attached. The copyright owner may then seek a court order requiring the ISP to reveal the identity of the customer. Existing law allows copyright owners to seek court orders, but the code would let them focus legal action on the most persistent pirates. Subscribers would also be able to challenge allegations via an independent appeals body. A new consultation on the draft code is open until July 26. Since there has already been a lengthy consultation period, the code is expected to move forward with little change or blowback from the ISPs invovled. Ofcom expects the first customer notification letters to go out in early 2014.