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UK proposes suspending Internet service for repeat illegal file-sharers

[JURIST] The British Department for Business Innovation and Skills [official website] on Tuesday proposed stricter sanctions [text, PDF] against illegal file-sharing that would include restricting and suspending user Internet access. The proposed regulations would be managed by the Office of Communications (Ofcom) [official website], which would report to Business Secretary Lord Peter Mandelson [BBC profile], recommending action against specific users. The proposals could be implemented sooner than the 2012 projected date of prior proposals to counter online piracy that are currently under public consultation [materials]. The changes target repeat offenders by requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block download sites, reduce a user's broadband speeds, and ultimately shut down the user's Internet access. Costs to implement these measures would be shared between users and service providers. While the proposal was welcomed by media industries, it provoked strong rejection among consumers and service providers. The ISP Association (ISPA) [advocacy website] decried [press release] the government proposal that Internet access should be taken away from users as a "disproportionate response" that failed to properly consult stakeholders, and expressed concern over the cost structure of the measures. Executive Director of the Open Rights Group [advocacy website] Jim Kollock called the measures [press release] a "knee-jerk reaction" to a problem that the market should solve on its own, while the Pirate Party UK [party website] characterized the measures [press release] as "draconian penalties." The government's consultation on the subject opened in mid-June for six weeks, but has been extended to September 29 after changes to the proposal were announced.

The French government has recently taken similar steps to counter illegal file-sharing by proposing an escalating series of responses for users that are caught. The French National Assembly [official website] voted in late July to delay a vote [JURIST report] on a new version [text, in French] of a controversial Internet piracy law. The new law gives discretion to suspend services to a judge after the infringer's third violation, after the Constitutional Council ruled [JURIST report] that the power to restrict the fundamental right of accessing the Internet should not be entrusted to an administrative authority as the original version had proposed. The original bill was challenged [JURIST report] by the Socialist party on the grounds that it failed to find a balance between the rights of Internet users and those of copyright holders.

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