The U.K. music industry has welcomed the publication of the Digital Economy Bill, which includes measures to tackle illegal file-sharing.

For now, the focus is on warning letters to deter file-sharing. But the Bill also includes three-strikes provisions to allow the introduction of technical measures such as bandwidth capping or temporary suspension for repeat offenders, if there is not a significant reduction - 70% - in file-sharing. As yet, the timetable for that reduction is not yet certain.

Under the proposed legislation, published today (Nov. 20) following the announcement in the Queen's Speech on Wednesdy (Nov. 18), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would have to notify subscribers suspected by rights holders of online piracy.

Rights holders will have to pay a fixed fee, which will be set by telecoms regulator Ofcom, to have a letter sent to the customer.

ISPs would have to keep a record of how many letters are sent to each subscriber. Copyright holders would then be able to apply for a court order to get the name and address of serious repeat offenders so they can take legal action.

The music industry has welcomed a provision in the Digital Economy Bill that would enable the secretary of state to order Ofcom to introduce tougher measures against online pirates, including bandwidth capping and ultimately temporary suspension of accounts. ISPs would be obliged to enforce these measures, although ministers have stressed it would be a last resort against serious offenders, if the overall level of file-sharing is not reduced by warning letters and the threat of legal action.

"Better protecting our creative communities from the threat of online infringement will ensure existing and emerging talent is rewarded and will bring new choices for online consumers," said Lord Mandelson, secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, in a statement. "Creating the right conditions for investment in our communications infrastructure will bring benefits for households and businesses in all parts of the country."

There will be an appeals system for those accused of copyright infringement under these new measures.

The Bill also includes a power to amend copyright legislation to deal with any new technologies that emerge in the future.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of U.K. trade body the BPI, welcomed the publication of the Digital Economy Bill and the provision to deal with such new systems of piracy.

"The introduction of the Digital Economy Bill is an important milestone towards a sustainable future for British music in the digital age," he said in a statement. "While the focus has been on measures to tackle illegal P2P, it is significant that the government has recognised the need for a mechanism to deal with other forms of illegal downloading.

"We can all be proud in Britain of our world-beating music industry, and we hope that all parties will work to ensure the measures are swiftly implemented to spur further investment in our legal online market."

Feargal Sharkey, CEO of umbrella industry group U.K. Music, commented: "The clear purpose of this Bill is to move everyone forward. To help promote further investment in a new and diverse range of licensed digital services, and to grow a sustainable online market that will benefit all artists, composers, musicians, investors, entrepreneurs and music fans.

"Our focus is not to disconnect, but to reconnect. To reaffirm and recognise the value of creative works, both to individuals and to the UK economy. However, for this market to evolve and flourish there must be breathing space to allow all sides to adapt. Government intervention can provide that impetus."

He added: "In this wider context, our industry continues to develop and partner with emerging digital services. ISPs and tech companies must work with us, and it is imperative that we reach out together to genuine fans of music.

"For the future of creative businesses in the U.K. and our continued ability to succeed and dominate a global stage, Government support and intervention is not only welcome, it is vital."

However, the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) condemned the measures to tackle file-sharing.

"Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the government should be asking rights holders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding," said secretary general Nicholas Lansman in a statement.

There are also measures to modernise the copyright licensing system to make it simpler and quicker for licensing societies to make content available online to consumers, and to support new commercial services. And the Bill will enable a "large volume" of orphan works, previously unusable because the rights holders could not be identified, to become available again according to the government.

In addition to the U.K. Music statement which neighboring rights organization PPL fully endorses, Fran Nevrkla, PPL chairman and CEO, added: "Collective licensing brings huge benefits, creating a level playing field between different services and encouraging competition. It makes complete sense to use this facility to license orphan works. We support the proposals on orphan works and extended collective licensing."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print