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ofcom_logo_whiteOfcom has today published a proposed code of practice that would use legislative measures to reduce the amount of online copyright infringement, as part of its new duties under the Digital Economy Act 2010. The proposals could see users who are found guilty of copyright infringement added to a list of offenders.

The proposals will initially cover fixed-line ISPs with over 400,000 subscribers, which would mean that the seven largest ISPs – BT, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, Sky, Orange, O2 and Post Office – will be covered by the code from the outset. 

The draft code of practice sets out how and when Internet Service Providers (ISPs) covered by the code will send notifications to their subscribers to inform them of allegations that their accounts have been used for copyright infringement. 

“In passing the Act, Parliament’s intention was that Ofcom should apply the obligations in a proportionate way, with the code initially covering only the larger fixed-line ISPs, but with the clear message that, should levels of copyright infringement on other networks, including mobile, increase then those ISPs will similarly be required to comply with the obligations,” said an Ofcom statement.

The code also sets out the threshold for including subscribers on that copyright infringers list, which must be compiled by ISPs. ISPs will have to record the number of notifications sent to their subscribers and maintain an anonymised list of alleged serial copyright infringers. 

This will allow those trying to bring copyright infringement cases to court to track down persistent offenders.

“Copyright holders can then request information on this list and pursue a court order to identify serial infringers and take legal action against them,” the Ofcom statement continued.

“Ofcom is proposing a three-stage notification process for ISPs to inform subscribers of copyright infringements and proposes that subscribers which have received three notifications within a year may be included in a list requested by a copyright owner.”
 
Subject to consultation and approval, Ofcom expects the code to come into force in early 2011.