Minister hands ISPs file sharing deadline

Friday, February 22 2008, 11:47 GMT

The Government today piled pressure on internet service providers to stop illegal file sharing by promising new laws if they do not agree a solution with the TV, music and film industries.

Ministers believe pirate downloads need to be stopped so legal alternatives, like paid-for or ad-supported video streaming, can develop. They had reportedly considered making ISPs catch and cut off persistent offenders under a "three strikes" system.

Today culture secretary Andy Burnham said nothing would be brought in immediately but he would plan a law with a view to introducing it next April.

Despite months of talks, ISPs and producers have so far failed to agree a voluntary way of fighting illegal file sharing. Service providers have said the "three strikes" solution would be unworkable and unfair. They oppose legislation to make them comply.

Burnham, speaking before the launch of an "action plan" to promote creative industries, said there was "definitely serious legislative intent". He added: "Let me make it absolutely clear: this is a change of tone from the government.

“We’re saying we’ll consult on legislation, recognising there are practical questions and legitimate issues. We’re not saying ‘here’s one we made earlier, here’s a bill'."

The proposals said: "The Government supports current discussions between internet service providers and rights holders for action on illegal file sharing and our strong preference remains for a voluntary solution. However... we will shortly consult on options for a statutory solution."

Among other plans is an independent review of "next generation" broadband, which is likely to be needed for video on demand to grow. Intellectual property minister Baroness Morgan of Drefelin said: "We need to prepare the way for the UK to adopt groundbreaking new technologies to ensure that we do not get left behind - competitively or technologically.

"High speed broadband is also vital for the growth of Britain's creative industries, which already contribute some £60 billion to the UK economy. We must continue to encourage expansion of the sector by providing the right kind of advice and support."