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Ofcom set to lay out anti-piracy rules for ISPs

After repeated delays, Ofcom's revised code of practice should arrive in June to tell ISPs what their role is in dealing with suspected unlawful file-sharers and what costs they will bear
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

ISPs should learn within weeks what they will be required to do to help combat copyright infringement, as the government pushes ahead with implementing the Digital Economy Act.


After repeated delays, Ofcom's revised code of practice should arrive in June to tell ISPs what their role is in dealing with suspected unlawful file-sharers. Image credit: Jon Yeomans

The Initial Obligations Code of Practice will lay out the technical measures and actions service providers have to take against suspected unlawful file-sharers, such as sending warning letters and disconnection of broadband access.

While legal challenges have meant the release of the code has been delayed, a draft is now expected to be published by Ofcom in June, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said on Tuesday.

"The point upon which we lost in both cases has meant that we have had to re-set how the costs of the process will be apportioned. This in turn has led to the Initial Obligations Code being delayed. However, we anticipate that the code will be published in June 2012," the DCMS said in a government response (PDF) to recommendations from the Film Policy Review Panel.

The release of the code of practice, required by the Digital Economy Act (DEA), has been repeatedly pushed back due to legal challenges from ISPs concerned by the cost of implementing the anti-piracy measures. The first draft appeared in May 2010, and no final version has yet been published.

A judicial review of the DEA and the subsequent appeal by ISPs against the finding in favour of the government added to the delays. However, the High Court did call for the government to rethink the sharing of costs for implementing the measures.

While Ofcom told ZDNet UK it has not set a date for publication of the code, it said that the end of June is "realistic". Once published, the code will still need to undergo EU scrutiny before being finalised, it noted. Internet service companies are therefore unlikely to need to take any action for some time, and the DCMS acknowledged in April that it does not expect the first copyright infringement notices to go out until 2014.

The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) said it still has reservations about the costs involved in implementing the anti-piracy measures, but plans to continue working with the government and Ofcom on the issue.

"We understand... that a number of important practical details still need to be agreed," a spokesman for the industry group said. "ISPA has a concern about the costs but welcomes the clarification that BT and TalkTalk achieved through their judicial review."

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