ISPA strongly opposes elements of the proposed legislation to reduce illicit P2P filesharing published in the Digital Economy Bill today.
ISPA members are extremely concerned that the Bill, far from strengthening the nation's communications infrastructure, will penalise the success of the Internet industry and undermine the backbone of the digital economy.
ISPA Secretary General Nicholas Lansman said, "ISPA is extremely disappointed by aspects of the proposals to address illicit filesharing. This legislation is being fast-tracked by the Government and will do little to address the underlying problem."
ISPA is concerned that the proposals grant far too much control to the Secretary of State, who will have the power to make specific recommendations on costs and impose an obligation on ISPs to use technical sanctions. ISPA believes that an independent body would be a fairer way to assess these factors and calls for the clauses granting these additional powers to the Secretary of State to be dropped from the Bill.
Mr Lansman said: "Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the Government should be asking rightsholders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding."
While ISPA supports the notification system, members believe that an obligation must be placed on rightsholders to pursue targeted legal action against persistent infringers. ISPA supports the view of consumer groups that strong deterrents already exist, such as the threat of litigation in the courts, and thinks that this should be recognised in the legislation.
Consistent with the principle of beneficiary pays, ISPA rejects an apportioning of costs and believes that rightsholders should shoulder this burden including reimbursement of ISPs’ reasonable costs. ISPs provide timely and accurate assistance to law enforcement with serious criminal investigations, under a system of cost recovery, and therefore should not incur costs for pursuing alleged civil infringements.
Mr Lansman said: "For nearly ten years ISPs and law enforcement agencies have been cooperating based on a system of cost recovery in the UK. I find it very surprising that the Government’s own legislation – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) – considers it appropriate for ISPs to be reimbursed for costs incurred when assisting in serious criminal investigations, such as terrorism or kidnap, but not for costs incurred pursuing an alleged civil infringement on behalf of a commercial interest."
ISPA is also disappointed at the threat of technical measures and calls for the reserve powers, which include the imposition of technical sanctions on users, to be dropped from the Bill. ISPA members believe measures such as filtering would be ineffective, expensive, difficult to implement and could have unintended consequences such as restricting access to legitimate services.
Nicholas Lansman said, "ISPA is concerned by the growing evidence that such measures will encourage the encryption of traffic and allow repeat infringers to avoid detection which may cause difficulties for law enforcement agencies pursuing criminal investigations."
Suspension of users’ accounts as a potential sanction is wholly disproportionate and is in direct opposition to the objectives outlined in Digital Britain to increase online participation. ISPA is concerned that the Bill, in defiance of the EU Telecoms Package that guarantees users’ rights to a presumption of innocence and effective judicial protection, will enable the suspension of users’ accounts without a ruling from a judicial authority.
Mr Lansman said: "ISPA continues to believe strongly that a reduction in unlawful file sharing can only be achieved if the focus turns to the education of consumers and the reform of content licensing to enable legal alternatives at a fair price."
Notes to the editor:
The Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) was established in 1995 as a trade association to represent providers of Internet services in the UK. ISPA promotes competition, self-regulation and the development of the Internet industry. For a list of members or other information about ISPA, please consult the website: www.ispa.org.uk
The views expressed in this release are those of the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) and do not necessarily reflect the corporate policies of the individual companies that are members of the Association or other organisations that may be mentioned in the release. For further editorial information please contact the ISPA Press Office (020 7340 8741).