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BT issues filesharing warning

Wednesday, September 23rd 2009 by Cable.co.uk

The cost of internet services could rise as efforts to tackle illegal filesharing get underway, broadband provider BT has claimed.

The government has announced a raft of proposals including the introduction of £50,000 fines and cutting off the internet connection of those found guilty of illegal filesharing.

In an effort to reduce the number of people who illegally share films, music and games online – estimated at around 7m in the UK – internet services providers will be asked to cut illegal filesharing on their networks by 70% within a year.

The communications regulator Ofcom is set to be given new powers to demand that providers collect data about alleged infringers of online rights.

But BT has said that the cost of cutting down on internet piracy could be passed onto customers.

John Petter, BT's consumer division head, has claimed that government proposals which would see broadband firms charged with policing the web could cost up to £1m a day.

Due to this, it has been estimated that broadband customers could see a £24 hike in their yearly bills.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Mr Petter claimed that the music industry could tackle the problem but it does not want to "take the hit" to its public image.

"It would cost millions and probably have very little impact as they [filesharers] would devise new ways to disguise what they're doing," he added.

The Digital Britain report, published earlier this year, outlines the government’s strategic vision for the future of digital communications in the UK.

It suggests that people who download or upload content illegally on a regular basis should have their details passed onto rights-holders such as music, film and games companies, who could then potentially sue them in court.

Offenders could also be banned from accessing certain websites or have their broadband speed or capacity throttled.

“The government considers online piracy to be a serious offence. Unlawful downloading or uploading, whether via peer-to-peer sites or other means, is effectively a civil form of theft,” the report says.

“This is not something that we can condone, or to which we can fail to respond.”

Robin Fry, a copyright expert at the law firm Beachcroft LLP, told the Guardian that the government was floundering when it comes to what it should do in face of determined lobbying.

“There are no votes and no financial incentive to rerun a Pirate Bay trial in Britain,” he said.

“Users are technically savvy and, even if challenged, many will simply set up further user accounts or sign up to overseas ISPs. None of the proposals in the Digital Britain report, nor our current copyright laws, will change what users are doing.

“Requiring ISPs to send out warning letters is a hopeless distraction. It’s like asking bus companies to tell passengers not to be late for work, or making airlines responsible for all drug smuggling.

"It’s difficult to see what Ofcom can achieve above what UK rights-owners could have done but failed to do.”

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