Vaizey sets ISP costs for chasing suspected web pirates

The government has suggested that ISPs pay 25 percent of the costs involved in identifying and contacting people suspected of sharing copyrighted material online

The government has given details of the costs that ISPs will be required to pay in helping to track down and contact people suspected of sharing copyrighted material online.

Ed Vaizey ISPs charging costs

Communications minister Ed Vaizey has outlined plans for ISPs to pay 25 percent of the costs associated with tracking down suspected file-sharers. Photo credit: David Meyer

Communications minister Ed Vaizey gave details of the proposed secondary legislation — officially known as the Online Infringement of Copyright Order — in a statement on Friday, suggesting that the government should pay three-quarters of the cost of contacting suspected illegal file-sharers, with the remaining 25 percent covered by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) involved.

According to industry estimates, online copyright infringement — which falls under the jurisdiction of the Digital Economy Act — costs rights holders £400m per year, Vaizey said.

"We are introducing a system of mass notification to warn people about the unlawfulness of copyright infringement, explain the harm it does and point them toward legitimate content," Vaizey said in a statement. "These measures are expected to benefit industry by around £200m a year and as rights holders will be the main beneficiaries, we believe our decision on costs is fair to everyone."

However, the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) told ZDNet UK on Monday that it was disappointed that the government expects ISPs to pay part of the costs of protecting the business model of rights holders.

"ISPA strongly believes that the internet offers excellent opportunities for rights holders to access their target market with relevant lawful content without the significant costs associated with a non-digital environment and views the decision as contrary to the promotion of the digital economy," ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman said in a statement.

Beneficiary pays

When the issue was raised in September, the ISPA argued that it should work on a 'beneficiary pays' principle; a view the organisation maintains.

We are introducing a system of mass notification to warn people about the unlawfulness of copyright infringement, explain the harm it does and point them toward legitimate content.

– Ed Vaizey, communications minister

"ISPA has consistently argued for the beneficiary pays principle and is disappointed with the government's decision. Full cost recovery for serious law enforcement cases is an established rule and ISPA sees no reason why it should not be the case here," Lansman said.

Under the proposed legislation, appeals will remain free for customers who want to dispute notifications. However, the government has reserved the right to introduce an appeal fee in the future if the appeals system is being abused.

The legislation will now go before the European Commission before being introduced into parliament as a statutory order. It will then form a part of Ofcom's Online Copyright Infringement Initial Obligations Code. The pricing proposals will come into force "during the first half of 2011", the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said.

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