No ‘3 Strikes’ Disconnection for UK Pirates

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Ever since the UK's major ISPs and the music industry were forced together by the government to sort out online piracy, it has been feared that a '3 Strikes' regime was on the horizon. Now, according to a government minister, that possibility has been ruled out.

Headed by the BPI, last year the British music industry signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the country’s six largest ISPs. They agreed to send out letters to alleged pirates on behalf of the music industry, warning them that their illicit music sharing activities had been monitored and they should discontinue their actions.

This wasn’t enough for the music industry. What they really wanted was a “3 strikes” or “graduated response” – a warning for the first offense, slowing of the offender’s Internet connection on the second and on the third, disconnection of the user from the Internet.

Eventually, the government appeared it was about to get tough if the ISPs and music industry couldn’t come to a voluntary decision, with Culture Secretary Andy Burnham threatening legislation. Through the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the government commissioned a public consultation last year into illicit file-sharing, and how to deal with it. In the end, no consensus was reached between the parties.

However, according to The Times, the “3 Strikes” option is off the table. In an interview with Intellectual Property Minister David Lammy, it was indicated that disconnecting users from the Internet in such a manner was fraught with legal difficulties. “I’m not sure it’s actually going to be possible,” he added.

This week the ‘Digital Britain’ report will be released. According to information leaked last week, Communications Minister Lord Carter will call for a new ‘Rights Agency’ to be overlooked by Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.

It’s suggested that the agency would be financed by both ISPs and rights holders, and will assist in maintaining any new regulations. There are even suggestions that an additional charge on a customer’s Internet bill could be added to enable contributions towards the music industry.

The final report, due for publishing later this week, should clarify the picture, but since Lord Carter has a drive for everyone in the country to have broadband by the time the Olympics come to Britain in 2012, anything that could detract from that will be viewed with caution.

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