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August 26, 2009

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Britain plans to ban repeat copyright offenders from Net

PEOPLE who repeatedly download copyrighted films and music could have their Internet connection cut off under proposed laws to tackle illegal file-sharing unveiled by the British government yesterday.

The proposal to ban repeat offenders from the Internet, which drew criticism from both civil rights groups and Internet service providers, toughens up the measures being considered in Britain to crack down on online piracy.

Treasury Minister Stephen Timms said that previous plans, which would only have restricted users' broadband speed, did not go far enough.

That punishment remains under the new plans, but is accompanied by the possibility of blocking offenders' access to download sites as well as banning them from the Internet.

If the measures are passed when they come to Parliament in November, Britain would join France in defying a European Parliament ruling in May that prohibited European Union governments from cutting off a user's Internet connection without first going to a court of law.

That ruling still needs a final stamp after negotiations with the European Council.

France, which passed its bill to cut off Internet access for offenders in May, has already created what may be the first government agency to track and punish online pirates.

The earliest a British ban could be put into place is 2011.

The British proposals put the onus on Internet service providers, which host file-swapping sites, to catch and take action against offenders.

The music industry has been criticized in the past for targeting individual Internet users in its legal war against piracy instead of the Internet service providers.

The Internet providers have been harder to pursue legally because they have been able to claim they have no knowledge of any piracy occurring on their networks.

The new UK proposals are a bid to change that, requiring providers to issue written warnings to subscribers whose IP addresses have been seen on an illegal download site.


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