Illegal Downloading to be Targeted by New Laws

The Government’s Digital Britain report, which was published earlier this year, was criticised for its “too soft” approach to illegal downloading. It led to an outcry from film and record companies who have been pushing for tougher sanctions for those that download and distribute copyrighted material without permission. The Government has now indicated that it will introduce more severe measures to target illegal downloading via its Digital Economy Bill, which was announced in November’s Queen’s Speech.

The Bill includes obligations on Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to send notifications to customers who are suspected of infringing copyright. ISP’s will also be forced to record the number of notifications a user has received, tracking them through their computer ID numbers, and to send this data to rights holders, such as record companies, so they can apply for a court order for the user's name and address to enable them to take civil action against serious repeat offenders. Those who fail to desist could be tackled by blocking access to download sites, reducing broadband speeds, or by suspending the individual’s internet accounts. Also, people who download copyrighted material so they can distribute it for commercial gain will face a maximum fine of £50,000.

According to a BIS (Department for Business Innovation & Skills) spokesman, the cost of the notification process would be shared between the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, and the ISP. It would appear that Ofcom will decide on a fixed charge for written notifications and the ISP will charge the rights holder the fixed amount. If this fixed charge does not cover the cost to the ISP or imposes an unworkable burden on its business, it is likely to be strongly opposed by ISP's who have refused to help the situation before, maintaining that they simply provide an internet service and should not be the presiding legal authority for its use. The Government is expected to face a battle in the Commons over the proposals.

If you are a copyright owner and would like advice on the action you can take in respect of illegal downloading or other copyright infringements please contact us on 01245 453822 or email

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.