Govt 'to cut off file-sharers from 2011'

Wednesday, October 28 2009, 15:00 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

Lord Mandelson has officially unveiled the government's online piracy plans and warned that the days of "consequence-free" illegal file-sharing are now over.

Speaking at the c&binet digital creative industry conference, the business secretary confirmed that the connections of persistent copyright violators will be blocked from summer 2011, but only as a last-gasp measure.

Due to be officially laid out in the government's digital economy bill coming next month, the "three strikes" strategy will involve staggered warning letters being issued to offenders followed by the suspension of their net connection if they continue to engage in illegal file-sharing.

Despite widespread criticism of the approach, Lord Mandelson said that a "legislate and enforce" strategy is the most effective way to protect the rights of content producers.

"Three strikes is a reasonable way of describing our approach. It must become clear that the days of consequence-free widespread online infringement are over," he said. "Technical measures will be a last resort and I have no expectation of mass suspensions resulting."

As outlined in the Digital Britain report, the effectiveness of warning letters will be monitored for a 12-month period by media regulator Ofcom.

If illegal file-sharing activity has not dropped by 70% by April 2011, then the punitive measures will be introduced three months later.

"If we reach the point of suspension for an individual, they will be informed in advance, having previously received two notifications - and will have the opportunity to appeal," explained Lord Mandelson.

"The British government's view is that taking people's work without due payment is wrong and that, as an economy based on creativity, we cannot sit back and do nothing as this happens."

However, the minister backed up culture secretary Ben Bradshaw's recent assertion that anyone affected by the suspensions will have a "proper route of appeal".

He also stressed that internet service providers should not be "unfairly burdened" by the new system, with rights holders having to share some of the cost.