The Digital Economy Act's anti-piracy measures have been delayed until 2014 at the earliest, following court cases brought by ISPs unhappy with the costs they would have to bear and with other aspects of the law.
The measures, which include sending warning letters and the threat of disconnection to internet users deemed to infringe copyright or other intellectual property laws through file-sharing, cannot be brought into effect until various legal processes are completed.
A judicial review and subsequent appeal, although finding largely for the government, created enough changes that a new impact assessment was required, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said on Thursday.
"We expect the first warning letters to go out in early 2014," a DCMS spokesman said in an email to ZDNet UK. "This is due to the rulings in the judicial review of the DEA. The court ruled in the government's favour in both the judicial review and the appeal court; however it ruled against small parts of the cost sharing.
"Therefore the Cost Sharing Statutory Instrument will need to be changed, and as a result Ofcom will need to change their code. Both will be published when they are ready."
The Digital Economy Act was passed in controversial circumstances at the end of the last Labour government in 2010, and has attracted criticism from users and ISPs alike.
Identification of alleged infringers will be the responsibility of the rights holders, who will tell ISPs which of their customers are suspected of unlawfully downloading copyrighted material. In the first, year-long phase of the scheme, ISPs will need to write to those customers and warn them that they are suspected of unlawful file-sharing.
After that year, if so-called piracy is not down by 70 percent or more, the next phase will begin. Repeat downloaders of copyrighted material will be sanctioned, possibly through suspension of their internet access. However, it will be up to the business secretary to finalise which penalties can be applied.