ISPs must foot 25% of anti-piracy bills

News Web User Sep 14, 2010

ISPs and consumer groups are crying foul over government plans to make ISPs pay a quarter of the costs of enforcing anti-piracy laws.

ISPs must pay 25 per cent of the cost of implementing new anti-piracy measures, it has been announced.

The process of identifying and informing broadband customers suspected of copyright infringement will be paid for partially by ISPs and copyright holders, who will pay the other 75 per cent.

The decision comes as the government attempts to thrash out the details of how some parts of the controversial Digital Economy Act will actually work in practice.

Minister for Communications, Ed Vaizey, said: "Protecting our valuable creative industries, which have already suffered significant losses as a result of people sharing digital content without paying for it, is at the heart of these measures.

"The Digital Economy Act serves to reduce online copyright infringement through a fair and robust process and at the same time provides breathing space to develop better business models for consumers who buy music, films and books online.

"We expect the measures will benefit our creative economy by some £200m per year and as rights holders are the main beneficiaries of the system, we believe our decision on costs is proportionate to everyone involved," he continued.

ISPs and consumer groups were understandably irritated by the decision. ISPs have long argued that the increased bandwidth used by people downloading copyrighted material costs them money, contrary to accusations from music industry bodies that ISPs make profits from piracy.

'Beneficiary pays' principle
The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) was disappointed by the ruling, arguing that rights holders should be responsible for all of the costs.

"ISPA has consistently argued for the beneficiary pays principle and is disappointed with today's announcement," said ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman.

"Full cost recovery for serious law enforcement cases is an established rule and ISPA sees no reason why it should not be the case here," he continued.

Indeed, ISPA argued, the internet offers the music industry "excellent opportunities" to provide relevant, legal content to music fans without incurring costs such as the manufacturing of physical products such as CDs.

As such, the government ruling is "contrary to the promotion of the digital economy", ISPA stated.

Consumer Focus argued that the extra costs incurred by ISPs may very well end up being passed on to customers.

"Consumers should not be picking up the tab for the enforcement of copyright laws that will benefit the music industry to the tune of millions," said Robert Hammond, head of Post and Digital Communications at Consumer Focus.

"The previous government admitted any extra cost on ISPs may push up the cost of broadband, making it unaffordable for thousands of vulnerable consumers who need internet access to get vital services and cheaper deals," he continued.

Appeal costs
The government also said that it would not charge fees to anyone wishing to appeal against accusations of illegal file-sharing, contrary to previous suggestions that people trying to clear their name could be forced to pay.

"It has been decided that no fee should be charged to internet subscribers who wish to use the appeal system to refute a notification. However as a free system risks the possibility of large numbers of unnecessary appeals, the government will monitor the situation closely, and reserves the right to introduce a small fee at a later stage," the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said in a statement.