Record Studios Asked ISPs to Harvest Information on Illegal DownloadsAccording to the UK Internet watchdog Ofcom, 18% of users aged 12 and over have recently pirated material, of which only 9% are afraid of being caught. ISPs were asked to collect data and build a database of subscribers who illegally download entertaining content that could be used to disconnect or prosecute persistent infringers.
Representatives of the entertainment industry asked largest UK providers – BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB and TalkTalk – to sign up to a voluntary code for policing unauthorized downloading. The negotiations on the issue have been under way for a while now with the BPI and the British Video Association, whose members are the BBC and Hollywood studios.
According to Ofcom’s statistics, within the tree months 280 million songs, 52 million TV shows, 29 million films, 7 million programs or games, and 18 million ebooks were digitally pirated in the United Kingdom. In response, the final season of Breaking Bad was released to British viewers on Netflix and iTunes within hours of its US airing – this was a clear attempt to limit digital piracy.
It is understandable that movie studios and music labels want action now, as the DEA, which was designed to fight piracy, still doesn’t work despite being voted into law by parliament three years ago. Such delays suggest that the legislation won’t be enforced until 2014 at the earliest – moreover, it could be pushed back until after the general election in 2015.
So, the ISPs are currently offered a “voluntary agreement”, under which they will have to create a database of repeat offenders. At the beginning, subscribers would receive warnings from their ISPs saying their IP had been used for infringing copyright and explaining the consequences, while offering legal alternatives. After receiving three such warnings, users would face sanctions, including throttling online connections, blocking certain websites, disconnecting from the Internet and ultimately prosecution. The creative industry wants ISPs to keep a list of those subscribers they had sent letters to.
However, industry observers claim that such a database might be illegal under the Data Protection Act. The latter states that companies can only retain data about individuals where it is needed for commercial purposes.