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The UK will today announce a plan for force ISPs to police copyrighted content using a technical 3-strikes approach - people who download wil find their connection speed slowed down -  throttled - prompted by an automated system. The plans  will be unveiled by the unaccountable Minister Lord Carter, who has resigned and is expected to take up a job with a television company that will arguably benefit from the proposals. 


The report is expected to contain  a three-pronged set of  proposals to deal with broadband infrastructure, peer-to-peer downloading, and broadcast television.  It is understood that the report recommends 'technical measures' against peer-to-peer, a public  body (not a tribunal)  to oversee these measures, a plan to drive up the

number of broadband subscriptions and a plan to give support to Britain's ailing commercial  television companies. The 'technical measures' are outlined as 'throttling' users who download from the peer-to-peer filesharing sites, although it is not clear on what basis they would be throttled, at whose discretion, and whether a court order would be needed. Under the EU Telecoms Package, as it currently stands, they would arguably need a court order. 

It is evident that the anti-downloading measures reflect  Lord Carter's view, backed by the creative industries. There has been no agreement between the creative industries and the Internet industries. Nicholas Lansman, the chairman of UK ISPA was on BBC Radio 4 this morning, making it clear the Internet industry view that ISPs should not  be asked to police the Internet, and that the creative industries should sort out the commercial issues related to copyright for online use.


However, Lord Carter has already resigned from his ministerial post. As a 'Lord' he is not accountable to the electorate, and his resignation appears to have nothing to do with expenses - rather it is understood that he is in the running for the post of head of ITV,   Britain's oldest commercial television channel.  The ITV post wouldsee him get a significant increase in salary over the £72,000 annual pay he receives as a Minister. Lord Carter  was previously on £500,000 a year as head of Brunswick public relations, before entering a political role as advisor to Gordon Brown. 


ITV  will no doubt be anticipating  benefits from the Ditigal Britain proposals, which also suggest that a slice of the BBC licence fee should be used to prop it up.

The broadband infrastructure providers are also set to get a subsidy from the licence fee money - it is proposed to divert some of the funds for digital television  switchover into supporting broadband.  

 Mr Carter's former colleagues at Virgin Media ( which took over his other previous employer, NTL) will  no doubt be anticipating the benefits of the  mooted payout for broadband expansion as well as the anti-filesharing measures. 


The proposals were revealed yesterday by the The Guardian newspaper, which appears to have received a pre-publication copy of the report. 

The proposals raise many questions in respect of the EU  Telecoms Package ( see Telecoms Package section on this site for more details).  In particular, becauase the proposals now going through the Brussels legislature strangely support Lord Carter's measures. It is known that the provisions for broadband providers to restrict Internet use originated from the UK government and there are several documents that establish this. Digital Britain  is  an example of how the UK government is laundering unpopular policy through Brussels.

However, the Digital Britain plans also  go in direct opposition to Amendment 138, and the principles it enshrines. This Amendment was carried by the European Parliament to express opposition to cutting of Internet services, and to protect Internet  users fundamental rights. 

I will post further analysis  later. 



The Guardian report on Digital Britain   said:

January's interim report also included a promise to protect the UK's creative industries from online piracy. But Lord Carter has held back from demanding that persistent illegal file-sharers should have their internet access cut off. Instead, the UK's internet service providers will work with the content companies and send warning emails and then letters to people who are believed to be illegally sharing copyrighted material over the web.

Persistent illegal file-sharers will have their internet connections slowed down and may be barred from visiting certain sites under a system of "technical measures". It will be up to the content owners to take any subsequent legal action against pirates.

Exactly how the regime will work, what sort of technical measures will be introduced – and under what evidence – will be decided by a new body designed to bring the content companies and ISPs together.


The Times Digital Britain coverage includes the following:

"insiders expect Lord Carter to recommend the introduction of premium-rate internet services that will allow users to access what they wish. Providers would then be expected to compensate music and film producers from a share of the additional revenue.  "




This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009), UK proposes a technical 3-strikes 16 June  2009. 



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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

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