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UK could force ISPs to apply technical measures on file sharers


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The UK Culture Secretary confirmed today that the Government is preparing legislation to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to apply technical measures on the most persistent file sharers. The full announcement will be made in the Government’s Digital Britain report which will be published later this month.Government Ministers are often prone to appearing at industry events and delivering the usual bland words of comfort but leaving policy completely alone. But Culture Secretary Andy Burnham’s speech this morning to the Making Online Music Pay conference was unusually clear.Burnham revealed that there would be a new requirement placed upon ISPs to oblige them to notify identified file sharers. But, more significantly, he also confirmed that the Government is now in the process of drafting legislation to back up this obligation by giving reserve powers to the regulatory body Ofcom. These reserve powers would enable Ofcom to ensure that ISPs then applied technical measures against the most persistent file sharers. Burnham characterised the policy as a ‘graduated response’.When quizzed by the BPI’s Geoff Taylor as to whether the trigger for this intervention might be a failure to reach the Government’s previously stated commitment to reduce file sharing in the UK by 70-80% within 2-3 years (one year of which has already passed), Burnham retorted “We do not and have not retreated in any way from that aim or timescale.”It seems highly unlikely that the Government could achieve a reduction in file sharing of such a significant magnitude so the focus of attention is now squarely on just what technical measures the ISPs might be forced to apply. Burnham refused to speculate on exactly what kind of technical measures these would likely to be.Some form of bandwidth throttling has been one of the most widely discussed solutions but other solutions are also being considered. These range from much lighter interventions such as imposing some kind of enforced browser redirect away from an offending site such as Pirate Bay, to cutting net users off altogether. But Burnham confirmed the Government believed the latter to be too ‘draconian’.

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