Is Three Strikes Being Abandoned in the UK?

Jolie O’Dell at ReadWriteWeb is one of many sources reporting that subscriber disconnection by ISPs on accusation of infringement no longer be part of the implementation of the Digital Economy Bill. The basis for thinking this is so is the response by Downing Street to a petition circulated by the ISP, TalkTalk.

The Register points out you have to read the statement on the Number10 much more closely.

The Bill would require ISPs to write to their customers whose accounts had been identified by a rights holder as having been used for illegal down loading of their material. In the cases of the most serious infringers, if a rights holder obtains a court order, the ISP would have to provide information so that the rights holder can take targeted court action.

We hope these arrangements on their own will secure our aim of a 70% reduction in illegal peer to peer file sharing. If that proves not to be the case, the Bill provides a reserve power obliging an ISP to apply ‘technical measures’ to a customer’s internet account to restrict or prevent illegal sharing. Technical measures might be a band width restriction, a daily downloading limit or, as a last resort, temporary account suspension. A proper independent appeal would be available against application of technical measures.

If I am reading this correctly, the plan is for a notice, followed up by increasingly stiffer measures. The language around those is incredibly fuzzy but I can almost guarantee the effect will be the same. I suspect if the bill is passed with language along these lines, we’ll see court cases between rights holders and ISPs trying to force the issue of “technical measures”.

There is just too little detail for me to believe this is much of an improvement. What exactly will be a “proper independent appeal”? Means for re-dressing false claims has been a sore point with precursors of the Digital Economy Bill and this doesn’t appear like it would do much better.

It is also interesting to note that the only mention of judicial interaction is for procuring subscriber data for “targeted court action”. No mention of a court order required for technical measures. It is surprising given how carefully crafted this message is to address, and potentially deflate, very specific concerns that there is nothing that would ease fears of guilt on accusation. Is it that hard to understand that we need oversight for that part of the process even more than the well trod ground of securing subscriber data?

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