Internet Piracy Crackdown by US Studios

Article excerpt

Downloading films, music or games could lead to prison, if UK signs up to proposed treaty

INTERNET USERS suspected of illegally downloading films, music or games face prison sentences and substantial fines under a deal being thrashed out between Hollywood corporations and European governments.

Tough new measures proposed under a controversial copyright treaty are also believed to include secret monitoring powers to catch illegal file-sharers. The proposals have drawn harsh criticism from privacy groups and UK internet service providers which claim the American-led entertainment industry is demanding draconian powers to punish copyright infringements in order to protect its businesses. MPs want the UK to say what it knows of these negotiations and have demanded the Government places details of the talks in the library of the House of Commons.

Under the proposals being discussed, an internet user involved in the transfer of suspiciously large "packets" of data could be secretly monitored and reported by their internet service provider (ISP) to a copyright contact point. Such a referral could be triggered by the downloading of a handful of films or music videos in a month and could lead to legal action being taken by an entertainment company or a piracy enforcement agency. In the worst cases, the entertainment industry would be able to press for fines or prison sentences. Under current UK Government plans, the severest sanction would lead only to the suspension of the offender's ISP connection.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is being negotiated between the EU and countries including the United States, Mexico, Korea and Japan. The powers being discussed go much further than those contained in the UK's Digital Economy Bill which places the responsibility of detecting and identifying minor infringements firmly with the copyright holder, not the ISP. British and European ISPs gave warning last night that the proposals threaten fundamental privacy and criminal-justice rights and put the freedom of the internet at risk.

A spokesman for the UK's ISP Association said that its members had concerns that the deal could lead to criminal sanctions beyond the civil penalties aimed at illegal file-sharing that are currently being proposed by the UK Government. …