In 2012, Ofcom was tasked to review legislation pertaining to copyright infringement, which included a wide ranging research operation. Its study showed that 47% of online users were unable to be certain whether what they were accessing was legal or illegal. Furthermore, it was established from a nationally representative sample that one in six people had illegally accessed or downloaded internet content.
Unsurprisingly in June 2012 Ofcom produced a draft Code that suggested changes to the law on copyright infringement. Initially, the new Code was due to take effect in 2014, though that has now been pushed back until 2015.
The New Proposed Code
The new proposals indicate that ISPs must send a letter of notification to customers who have been found to be accessing content illegally, but also to indicate where such content can be viewed or downloaded legally. These standard form notifications will detail specific information such as the time the alleged infringement took place.
If a user receives three standard form notifications in the space of 12 months, ISPs will add consumers to a copyright infringement list. Right holders, under the new Code, will have a legal right to request access to this information on a month-by-month basis and, if necessary, obtain a court order compelling ISPs to provide the identities of alleged infringers. Right holders could then take legal action under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act.
Users would have a right to challenge any warning letters. An independent appeals body will be appointed to regulate in such cases. The Code details numerous rights of appeal such as challenges as to whether the alleged action amounted to a copyright infringement. However, Ofcom have removed the general right of appeal, which appeared in the original draft Code.
It is clear that the intentions behind the newly drafted Code aim to concentrate legal action, or the possibility of legal action, on the persistent infringement of copyrighted content. However, it also demands ISPs to be more proactive and facilitating in clamping down on copyright infringers and strengthens the right of redress for right holders.
Impact on Businesses
A tougher stance on illegally accessed content could impact the business sector as well. The Internet Advertising Bureau UK is rethinking the principles, which guide businesses on online advertising and copyright infringement. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has also indicated that stronger measures need to be taken regarding copyright infringement. It is clear that the changes proposed by Ofcom’s new Code on copyright infringement are sparking a renewal of interest in the regulation of misuse of copyrighted content in the business and corporate sector.
The formal Ofcom recommendations may have been delayed until 2015, but the business sector is moving quickly to address these issues themselves where possible. As a result, it is imperative that your business remains up to date on developments regarding the regulation of copyright infringement. For more information please contact James Crichton via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.