ORG blasts Ofcom's three strikes code on copyright pirates

Civil rights campaigner the Open Rights Group has blasted Ofcom proposals on the "initial obligations code" that would effectively introduce a "three strikes and out" regime to control online piracy.

Civil rights campaigner the Open Rights Group has blasted Ofcom proposals on the "initial obligations code" that would effectively introduce a "three strikes and out" regime to control online piracy.

ORG said it would ask Ofcom "to start again, as their draft code misses vital requirements to outline the standards of evidence".

The missing information meant Ofcom's proposed code did not comply with the Digital Economy Act, ORG said.

According to ORG the proposed code would limit consumer protections granted by the Act, which was passed amid anger and controversy in the "wash-up" before the last election. BT and TalkTalk, the country's two biggest ISPs, have asked the High Court to review the process by which it came into law.

ORG said the proposed code failed to define the threshold for action, nor did it define the standards of evidence required for action. It also placed the burden of proof on the accused, was unclear in describing the appeals process, and limited consumers' financial redress in the event of a failed prosecution.

ORG executive director Jim Killock said, "Ofcom's proposal denies us the ability to check whether any of the evidence is trustworthy. Instead, copyright holders and internet service providers will just self-certify that everything's OK. If they get it wrong, there's no penalty."

Killock accused Ofcom of passing the buck on evidentiary standards. "How is anyone meant to trust this code if we can't see how the evidence is gathered or checked?"

Killock called for a new consultation on a new code that was compliant with the Act.

The present consultation closes on Friday 30 July.


Computer Weekly says...

Copyright owners, especially in the music, film and video sectors, have made windfall profits selling the same content on different media as technology has evolved.

Artists, the true creators of the content, were lucky to receive 10% of the revenue they generated.

This was fair(ish) while replication and distribution costs were high. Digital recording and distribution has shrunk those costs to negligible amounts.

Despite this, mainstream record and film producers and distributors have been slow to change the way they do business, especially to give artists a more equitable share of the profits.

Instead they have lobbied governments to maintain the status quo through their support for the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta), the French Hadopi law, and other "three-strikes" legislation.

The effect of these initiatives would be to criminalise a civil offence, namely theft of copyright or intellectual property.

They would also largely require the accused to prove their innocence, and they would leave enormous power to control the distribution of content in the hands of very few people, who are mostly already rich and powerful.

Computer Weekly readily acknowledges that abuse of copyright and counterfeiting are big problems that often involve well-organised international criminal gangs. The proper authorities to deal with this are the police, not ISPs and politicians.

By trying to extort unearned profits from consumers, today's legitimate rights holders leave themselves open to the accusation that they are little better than their criminal counterparts.

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