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U.K. Media Regulator Outlines Anti-Piracy Legislation That Could Reach Parliament in Late 2012

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New Ofcom draft measures call for ISPs to notify subscribers of alleged infringement in a "three strikes" scheme and copyright holders to develop awareness campaigns and "attractive online services."

LONDON - U.K. media regulator Ofcom said Tuesday that it expects key legislation against piracy to reach parliament around the end of 2012.

New draft measures against illegal downloads outlined in an Ofcom post that are now open for comment "would require large Internet service providers to inform customers of allegations that their Internet connection has been used to infringe copyright," the regulator said. Large ISPs are defined as those with more than 400,000 subscribers. As part of the notification, they would also have to outline ways for them to find legally licensed content.

Similar to France's anti-piracy rules, customers who receive three warning letters within a year face having data on their downloads sent to copyright owners, which can then decide if they take legal action against the users. Broadband users can challenge allegations of illegal downloads via an independent appeals body."

Internet users will be encouraged to download music and films through legal channels," Ofcom said. The proposed rules are designed to "help inform the public and promote lawful access to digital content, such as music and films," according to the organization.

Entertainment companies would also be required to play their part under the Ofcom plans. "Copyright owners are expected to invest in awareness campaigns to help educate consumers about the impact of copyright infringement and further to develop attractive online services to offer their content," Ofcom said.

The Digital Economy Act of 2010 called for the establishment of a system of notification about alleged copyright infringement. The government has proposed that copyright owners pay for the notification system with contributions from ISPs.

The legislation was previously held back by a complaint from telecom giant BT and Talk Talk, which had said they shouldn't be responsible for policing subscribers.

"These measures are designed to foster investment and innovation in the UK’s creative industries, while ensuring internet users are treated fairly and given help to access lawful content," said Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer group director. "Ofcom will oversee a fair appeals process and also ensure that rights holders’ investigations under the code are rigorous and transparent."

Subject to further review by the European Commission, the proposals will be brought to parliament around the end of 2012. Ofcom said it expects the first customer notification letters to be sent in early 2014.

In the U.S., the SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy legislation efforts were scrapped earlier this year amid opposition. Entertainment companies are believed to hope to start a new debate about anti-piracy measures after this fall's elections.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai