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British govt mulls cutting Web access for file sharers

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-11-23

British Web users involved in illegal downloading could see their Internet connection cut off under new proposals put forward by the government. The move follows a similar initiative by the French government, which encountered stiff resistance.

AFP - The British government said hardcore online pirates who illegally swap and download copyrighted films and music could have their Internet connection cut off, in proposals announced Tuesday.
  
The threatened measure, which would go beyond previous proposals and has strong similarities to a proposed French law, could be brought in soon to tackle illegal downloaders file-sharing en masse.
  
The government is "considering adding account suspension to the list of technical measures that could be used only as a last resort against the hard core of copyright pirates," said a spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
  
Internet service providers (ISPs) could be forced to take action against individual repeat offenders, the spokesman added, while access to download sites could be blocked.
  
The previous proposals being considered by the government only went as far as restricting Internet users' broadband access speed.
  
Stephen Timms, the minister for the Digital Britain project, which aims to put the country at the forefront of digital innovation, said the new plans would allow "swifter and more flexible measures" to tackle illegal file-sharing.
  
"Technology and consumer behaviour is fast-changing and it's important that Ofcom (the communications industry regulator) has the flexibility to respond quickly to deal with unlawful file-sharing," said Timms.
  
The British Phonographic Industry recorded music trade body said the plans were a helpful move in the battle against online pirates.
  
"Digital piracy is a serious problem and a real threat to the UK's creative industries," said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor.
  
"We welcome the government's recognition that this problem needs to be addressed urgently, so today is a step forward that should help the legal digital market to grow for consumers."
  
But Jim Killock, head of civil liberties campaigners Open Rights Group, said the measures would "restrict people's fundamental right to freedom of expression.
  
"This is the wrong moment to go in this direction. Online music revenues are going up, illicit filesharing is going down.
  
"Instead of letting the market solve the problems, the government seems intent on heavy-handed intervention."
  
Britain's threat to cut off Internet access follows similar moves in France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy has been struggling to get such a measure past constitutional experts and hostile lawmakers.
  
France's Constitutional Council, its highest legal body, struck down a key provision of the law forcing the government to table a new bill which will now be put to a vote by parliament next month.

Date created : 2009-08-25

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