April 13, 2010

Ofcom reveals nitty-gritty of Digital Economy Act

by Darren Allan

Ofcom has produced a terms of reference document, which clarifies how the freshly passed (read: rushed through before the election) Digital Economy Act will work.

Internet Service Providers will have to notify their customers of any allegations of illegal file-sharing made by copyright holders.

These notifications must include sufficient information to enable the receiver to understand and dispute the claim, and the accused party must have access to what Ofcom calls a “robust” appeals procedure.

If the copyright holder decides to pursue legal action, obtaining the personal details of the infringing computer owner will require a court order.

All these measures will be enforced by an Ofcom code of practice. The time period for this code to be drafted is eight months, i.e. before the end of the year.

Ofcom may let ISPs write up the code themselves, if they can agree and forge it out between them, but failing that, Ofcom will take the matter into its own hands and draft the code of practice itself.

The terms of reference document also talks about Ofcom’s responsibility in reporting to the government. It says: “Ofcom will provide quarterly reports to the Secretary of State, estimating levels of unlawful file sharing and assessing the extent of legal action by copyright owners.”

“We will also report annually on a broader range of factors, including consumer education campaigns and the availability of attractive lawful alternative services.”

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