The government will introduce a "three strikes and you're out" policy without a court order to stop illegal online file-sharing, business secretary Peter Mandelson has told a government-sponsored meeting of content and network providers.
The move follows a controversial watering-down of Amendment 138 in the European Parliament. Amendment 138, which the British and French governments lobbied against, insisted that no-one could interfere with a user's right to access and use the internet without a court order.
Mandelson's move is contrary to moves by US regulators to enhance so-called net neutrality. However, music mogul David Geffen is reported to have lobbied Mandelson personally for immediate action against people who download music illegally.
Mandelson told the Cabinet meeting the bill would give notice and take-down procedures legal force. He said one in 20 music files was downloaded legally.
"Warning notifications followed up with targeted legal action by rights holders should be the only enforcement action required to significantly reduce the level of unlawful file-sharing," he said.
He said the government would reserve powers to order internet service providers (ISPs) to invoke "technical measures", such as filtering and restricting bandwidth. "Account suspension will be an option available to apply at the last resort for the most serious infringers," he said.
Chris Watson of City law firm CMS Cameron McKenna, said, "Rights holders and creative industries will welcome Mandelson's stance, which may be enough to deter casual P2P file-sharers. But consumers will be concerned that they could be cut-off from the internet without a fair trial."
He said the "opportunity to appeal", as Mandelson put it, was not one of the normal legal protections of intellectual property rights, and could be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
"This is especially relevant as current technology used to identify file-sharers can all too easily implicate innocent people. ISPs' concerns about who will pay for the new regime will not be alleviated by these comments, which are peculiarly silent on the costs of the new proposals," he said.