Local Time

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Families who illegally download music and movies online face court action for copyright theft

  • Regime designed to stamp out internet piracy will treat individuals as ‘guilty until proven innocent’
  • People wrongly accused of making illegal downloads will have to pay £20 fee to appeal and prove their innocence
  • Move has angered consumer groups
By Sean Poulter
 
Families who illegally download free music, movies and eBooks face a new crackdown with warning letters and court action for copyright theft.
A controversial new regime designed to stamp out internet piracy will effectively treat individuals as ‘guilty until proven innocent’.
People who are wrongly accused of making illegal downloads will have to pay a £20 fee to appeal and prove their innocence in a move that has angered consumer groups.
Controversial: Families who illegally download free music, movies and eBooks face a new crackdown with warning letters and court action for copyright theft
Controversial: Families who illegally download free music, movies and eBooks face a new crackdown with warning letters and court action for copyright theft
New controls on internet piracy were outlined today by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom under the Government’s Digital Economy Act 2010.
The same Act includes punishments that could – at some future date – see accused families having their internet service slowed down, capped or even cut off.
A new industry code will require large internet service providers (ISPs) like BT, Virgin, Sky and TalkTalk, to send warning letters to families suspected of illegal downloads or uploads of copyright material.
If a customer receives three letters or more within a year, entertainment giants such as movie and music companies will have a right to ask for details of the material involved.

These companies will then apply for a court order requiring the ISP to reveal the customer’s name and address.
The information would be used to pursue the person involved through the civil courts for damages, which could run to thousands of pounds.
However, there are concerns that people who may be totally innocent, perhaps because their wireless internet connection has been hijacked by a neighbour or criminal, will be caught up in the new regime.
People who receive a warning letter will be assumed to be guilty unless they pay a fee of £20 to appeal and can demonstrate their innocence.
Mike O'Connor, chief executive of the official customer body, Consumer Focus, challenged the £20 fee.
The Conservative Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey said media companies had to be able to 'protect their investment'
The Conservative Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey said media companies had to be able to 'protect their investment'
He said: ‘Copyright infringement is not to be condoned, but people who are innocent should not have to pay a fee to challenge accusations.
‘Twenty pounds may sound like a small sum, but it could deter those living on low-incomes from challenging unfair allegations.
‘This fee is intended to prevent "vexatious appeals". But this could be achieved without pricing low income consumers out of their right to appeal, by giving the Appeals Body the power to fine those who have brought frivolous appeals.
‘However, the best way to reduce unnecessary appeals is for Ofcom to require a high standard of evidence from copyright holders, preventing thousands of notifications being sent out on the basis of flimsy evidence.’
Consumer Focus is also concerned about powers contained in the Digital Economy Act that will allow the government to impose draconian sanctions on people accused of piracy.
If the system of warning letters and civil legal action by entertainment firms does not stop piracy, ministers will be able to go back to Parliament to enact rules that could see households having their internet service cut off.
Mr O’Connor said: ‘Ultimately consumers could be subject to "technical measures", including being cut off from the internet, and the ability to appeal is therefore critical to ensure consumers who have done nothing wrong are not deprived of essential internet access further down the line.’
Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group, rubbished the appeals system, saying: ‘Some people will almost certainly end up in court having done nothing wrong.’
Publishers, music and movie companies have long been arguing for tougher controls on web piracy.
They insist that British musicians, bands, writers and workers in the creative industries – ranging from Adele to Paul McCartney - are suffering huge losses because their work is being distributed for free over the internet.
The Conservative Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey said these companies had to be able to ‘protect their investment’.
He said: ‘They have the right to charge people to access their content if they wish, whether in the physical world or on the internet.
‘They have the right to charge people to access their content if they wish, whether in the physical world or on the internet.
‘We are putting in place a system to educate people about copyright to ensure they know what legitimate content is and where to find it.
‘The Digital Economy Act is an important part of protecting our creative industries against unlawful activity.’ 
Ofcom’s consumer group director, Claudio Pollack, said: ‘These measures are designed to foster investment and innovation in the UK’s creative industries, while ensuring internet users are treated fairly and given help to access lawful content.
‘Ofcom will oversee a fair appeals process, and also ensure that rights holders’ investigations under the code are rigorous and transparent.’
The new regime is due to come into effect in early 2014.

Read more:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2165004/Families-illegally-download-music-movies-online-face-court-action-copyright-theft.html

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