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Ofcom Reveals New ISP Rules Following the Digital Economy Act

Gordon Kelly


Ofcom Reveals New ISP Rules Following the Digital Economy Act

What will the {insert: adjective here} Digital Economy Act mean for ISPs? You're about to find out...

Independent telecommunications regulator Ofcom has this afternoon announced its "Draft code of practice" which is designed to step in line with contentious the new law. Key points:

  • All proposals will only apply to fixed line ISPs with over 400,000 subscribers (BT, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, Sky, Orange, O2 and the Post Office - Post Office?!)

  • ISPs must record the number of notifications sent to their subscribers and maintain an anonymised list of alleged serial copyright infringers

  • Copyright holders can request information on this list and pursue a court order to identify serial infringers and take legal action against them

  • Ofcom is proposing a three stage notification process for ISPs to inform subscribers of copyright infringements

  • Subscribers which have received three notifications within a year may be included in a list requested by a copyright owner

  • Ofcom will establish an independent appeals mechanism for consumers who believe they have received incorrect notifications. This will look at sharing the costs of a consumer appeal
Unknowns and loop holes:

  • Mobile networks are currently exempt as are all smaller ISPs

  • No clarification on whether convicted offenders will have their broadband disconnected

  • No clarification on how this will affect commercial WiFi or schemes such as
  • WiFi London

  • No clarification whether notifications will refer to a single offence (eg, one song) or whether it will refer to a period of monitored copyright infringement
So yes it's all a bit of a mish-mash which leaves open as much as it answers. Ofcom's consultation period on the draft will end on 30 July so let's hope we get more then before the proposals go into force in early January 2011.

Meanwhile we keep our fingers crossed this tighter regulation will encourage copyright holders to now come up with better, fairer, more wide-ranging distribution methods for their content (particularly video content from other countries) and not just sit back creaming off the profits...

Link: Ofcom ISPs draft code of practice


May 28, 2010, 10:10 pm

I'm still confused on what counts?

Is it just purely the file sharing/ torrents that is counted, and only when it is illegal content? or is it everything? ie. there are hundreds of thousands of songs in videos in youtube, whether it be to gameplay or the lyrics of the songs, would that be included in the list?

what happens if tv show/movie or esp a short cartoon gets put on a streaming site like youtube/veoh does that still get included?

it's all very more complex than the politicians can imagine and I suspect that as soon as this in fully introduced multiple ways of truly anonymous downloads will spring up and become the norm.


May 28, 2010, 10:36 pm

YouTube has copyright agreements in place, but yes much illegal content is temporarily hosted on the site before it is taken down. How could a casual user know which is which and does it count? Yet another point Ofcom needs to clarify...


May 28, 2010, 10:48 pm

This has given me the idea - I'm starting a new business - an ISP which is only open to the first 399,999 subscribers, so I'd never have to worry about this stuff (and could offer anonymity to my subscribers). I'm guessing, given the type of subscriber I might attract, that an unlimited package will be popular. Not pitched at the bargain basement. It will be run on the things that used to matter before you got broadband free in a box of cereal - customer service; speed; reliability. Oh yeah, and no traffic shaping. Anyone keen?

Tim Sutton

May 28, 2010, 10:58 pm


I'm with the Post Office for broadband and phone now. Weekly speedtests result in a 6.1 Mbps average over 7 months, double the speed what I was getting with BT. No download limits and free landline calls and mobile calls for £25 a month, including line rental.

I've recommended it to everyone I know, I'm not surprised their numbers are up :-)


May 28, 2010, 11:30 pm

The end result of the three strikes policy is similar to the one for DRM. It'll hurt the honest, law abiding folk and the pirates will just find another way around (i.e. RapidShare & streaming sites).

As Steve Jobs said at the launch of iTunes, content companies need to compete with piracy on two levels, convenience and quality. If I had to

Punishing future customers seems incredibly short sighted and detrimental, whereas opening up Hulu and Netflix UK would make far more business sense and not create the negative brand equity thats internet disconnections will.

My prediction, a few false positives, a few tabloid stories outraged that housebound Nanna can no longer shop at Ocado because Bono mistakenly cut her internet, and this Act will be amended to impotency.

@John McLean - I'd be interested, I'm not a pirate but I've been known to use proxy tricks to watch the latest episode of The Office on Hulu, which is a copyright violation :(

john g

May 29, 2010, 12:47 am

Do you think they're calling it "Draft code of practice" so that they only have to strike out one 'r' when it reaches final publication status?


May 29, 2010, 2:22 pm

So if you're a serial pirate you simply switch to a smaller ISP and life continues as usual, making this regulation, er... totally ineffective.

Although it is likely to have an interesting effect on the smaller ISPs, who will 'benefit' from a sudden influx of new users who think normal usage is 10GB/day of HD video off torrents.


May 29, 2010, 3:34 pm

This is utter crap, why is OUR money being wasted on this rediculous and unenforceable tosh thought up by uninformed idiots? Bin it!


May 29, 2010, 6:08 pm

xenos: Why? I believe the answer is really quite simple, and can probably be expressed in a single sentence which includes the words "Mandelson", "Geffen", "BPI", "greed", and "blatant corruption". Oh, and "shower of bastards"...

In all seriousness, for all the recent drivel about "new politics", we are still governed by a Parliament of complacent, apathetic fools who are either too indebted to vested interests or too lazy and self-serving to question the Party line. Ask your MP about this issue (whatever their political colour) and chances are they will simply regurgitate the industry propaganda about all those poor souls who stand to lose their jobs due to piracy. Funny how the same politicians were not remotely bothered about the loss of thousands of jobs in all our other industries, eh?


May 29, 2010, 7:35 pm

ok lets play devil's advocate, pirating copyrighted material is illegal, plain and simple, you cannot argue against that, if people seriously weren't pirating the stuff then something would not be able to be introduced, because of the public outcry of the monitoring of what you are doing on the internet.

ok lets play some more, if this works and it really does stop the downloading of pirated material then what is going to happen? I suspect that it will be the exact same as it was before fast broadband was here, where you go to a car boot sale and you buy the dodgy dvds from there, but the is something far far worse if/when this happens and it's the simle fact that the sales of dodgy dvds directly funds, drugs and far far worse things, the all the past government has/will have done is pushed piracy underground, where it can fund truly terrifying activities.

example: just look at that meow meow drug they just banned (simply not thought through)


May 29, 2010, 11:28 pm

xenos - I could not put it better myself.

Long live VPN and SSL..... I'm betting our well informed MP's won't guess what the letters mean ;)


May 30, 2010, 2:30 am

So so flawed. How do they tell if copyrighted content is illegal unless they are tracking the sources of the downloads. For instance, If I put copyrighted content in my dropbox, which is then synced over the internet, can be be counted as illegal downloading?


May 30, 2010, 3:07 am

Jay: Indeed. God forbid we be allowed to have sensible debate and research on drugs, or reveal facts to help manage the risks to individuals and society. Far better to keep the issue taboo, remaining unable to accurately determine the effects of various drugs or combinations. Far better to keep pushing them further underground, with people ingesting deadly adulterants along with drugs that would otherwise be relatively low-risk. Far better to allow the trade to remain controlled by dangerous criminals, exploiting immigrants and other vulnerable people while maintaning their market share through violence, with the profits often funding still more dangerous activities...

Sadly, I fear that the industry and their compliant Ministers and newspapermen might yet turn file-sharing into an equally black-and-white topic (File-Sharing Bad, Copyright Good). We all laughed when the best the industry could come up with was "You wouldn't shoot a nun in the face (etc)." But they are becoming more subtle, employing emotional blackmail by telling us how many thousands will be made unemployed because you chose to download a few episodes (and never mind that the figures are highly dubious at best). I wonder if there are enough folks who know and care enough about the issue to balance out the combined influence of the industry, government and press. Without some sustained large-scale efforts to educate the public about the issue, file-sharing may become the new drugs or the new "hoodies"; denounced as evil with no room for rational discussion. If that happens, it will be too late to turn back the clock and reclaim the Internet from corporate and Government control.

Think I'm blowing it all out of proportion? Maybe - come back in 5 years' time and we'll see (assuming we're still allowed to discuss such matters online without being disconnected or threatened with lawsuits...)


May 30, 2010, 7:36 pm

The thing that gets me when these corporations complain about piracy is "look at all that money the pirates are making", referring to adverts on the pirate bay or those pub DVD sellers. "it must be stopped". Well why don't they just enter the market the pirates already operate in!

They could licence out all the films ever made to lower quality flash sites (eg. netflix, lovefilm), rake in millions and millions in ad revenue and subscriptions.

Then they could start selling cheaper vanilla DVD's (£5-10) of movies that have just been released at the cinema. This would almost eliminate piracy and they'd make heaps of money from it. Also they'd still be able to sell blu-ray's (with extra features) at the £10-15 mark 1-2 months after the film has left the cinema.

Of course if they also reduced the cinema ticket prices by half there would be a HUGE increase in cinema attendance (easily more than double) and it would be a tiny bit cheaper than the vanilla day and date DVD's.

Now I'm just some random internet person, why don't these these media conglomerates know how they could make way more cash and solve all their "piracy" problems over night? Seems pretty simple to me. They need to give their customers the choice they are clearly demanding.

Nick 11

June 2, 2010, 2:38 pm

But Jopey, that's precisely what they don't want to do. The so wanted to avoid changing their business model, suffering the risk of change and were prepared to pay for it.

The sensible course of action for the industry is immediate worldwide release of all content - for a small fee. Not £2 an episode but £1, films available for £5, DVD ISO download for the same but no, it'll never happen.

They don't want to offer choice. They want to offer a throttled market where the only distributor is them, cornering the market and ensuring higher prices and controlled availability. The words customer and choice don't come into it over the word "profit".

I imagine when the illegal downloads shoot off toward encrypted methods they'll make every effort to ban the use of VPNs and SSL and someone in government will accept a payoff to push it through - just like they did this time.

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