U.K. may cut Web access to file-sharers

Officials previously said offenders would get warnings

LONDON -- The British government has been accused of caving in to the demands of the entertainment industry after signaling that Internet users who repeatedly download films and music illegally may have their Internet access cut off.

The move, from business secretary Peter Mandelson follows a meeting between Mandelson and DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen this month while the minister was on summer vacation in Corfu.

It signals a U-turn on government policy announced just two months ago in the Digital Britain report, which stopped short of recommending Internet disconnection, opting for softer measures such as a series of warnings instead.

Ministers are now considering forcing Internet service providers to cut off repeat offenders, a move that has been opposed by broadband suppliers.

"Introducing measures such as disconnection at the instigation of the secretary of state will sidestep proper scrutiny, likely breach fundamental human rights and result in innocent people being disconnected or, worse, prosecuted," said Internet service provider TalkTalk in a statement.

A spokesman for the department of business said that Mandleson's meeting with Geffen was unconnected to the issue of file-sharing.

"Work has been ongoing on these issues for a matter of weeks. Lord Mandelson does not believe Digital Britain is even on David Geffen's radar. There was no discussion on this with Geffen," a spokesman said.