Internet piracy appeal fee challenged by Consumer Focus

Internet user Users face punishment if they receive three copyright infringement letters within a year

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Suspected internet pirates will have 20 working days to appeal against allegations of copyright infringement and must pay £20 to do so, according to revised plans to enforce the UK's Digital Economy Act.

The details are contained in secondary legislation presented to Parliament and a draft code published by Ofcom.

The telecoms regulator said it expected the scheme to begin in 2014.

Campaigners oppose the fee saying users should be innocent until proven guilty.

The Creative Industries Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: "We must ensure our creative industries can protect their investment.

"They have the right to charge people to access their content if they wish, whether in the physical world or on the internet."

Three letters

Under the plans users suspected of accessing or uploading illegally copied files will be sent letters from their internet service provider (ISP), delivered at least one month apart, informing them they are suspected of copyright infringement.

The messages will also contain information about where to find licensed material online.

Copyright owners can request details about all the accusations made against any account-holder who receives three or more letters within a 12-month period, but the user's name will not be revealed at this stage.

Expect plenty more arguments before we finally discover whether the Digital Economy Act really has the potential to be as good for the creative industries or as bad for the consumer as the different lobbies claim.

Meanwhile you could argue that the whole enterprise already looks obsolete.

The copyright holders have found that existing laws enable them to take action against piracy sites, with court rulings forcing ISPs to block access to Newzbin and the Pirate Bay.

Rights holders wishing to chase a suspected pirate must seek a court order requiring the ISP to hand over the details.

Ofcom said this additional step was designed to encourage efforts to be focused "on the most persistent alleged infringers".

Appeal fees

Accused users who wish to appeal against the claims outlined in any letter must pay £20 to do so, but the revised code says only grounds specified in the act will be considered.

Campaign group Consumer Focus chief executive Mike O'Connor said: "Copyright infringement is not to be condoned, but people who are innocent should not have to pay a fee to challenge accusations.

"Twenty pounds may sound like a small sum, but it could deter those living on low-incomes from challenging unfair allegations."

He added the best way to reduce unnecessary appeals was for Ofcom to require a high standard of evidence from copyright holders to avoid notifications being sent out on the basis of "flimsy evidence".

Ofcom noted its revised code stated rights holders would only be able to gather evidence using measures approved by the regulator.


ISPs - who must also contribute to the cost of running the scheme - will ultimately be required to take steps against repeat offenders such as limiting their broadband speed or suspending their accounts.

However, Ofcom noted this would require further legislation that could only be considered after the letter scheme had been in force for a year.

Even so, members of the Creative Coalition Campaign, welcomed the latest step towards implementing the copyright crackdown.

"We urge ISPs to begin building their systems now and to work constructively with rights holders, Ofcom and government to get notice-sending up and running as soon as possible," said John Smith, general secretary of the Musicians' Union.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    That's atrocious.

    Not only morally wrong, raises questions: where does the £20 go? How easy is it to send the 3 letters which effectively demand £20 to maintain your good name?

    If a member of the public did this it would be labelled extortion, blackmail, coercion (just for a start).


  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    If anyone gets to read the #DEAct and the history behind it - Mandelson basically was given back-handers to rush this act through by Hollywood producers - they'll realise that this act protects no-one except the failing business models of the content industry and should be thrown out immediately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Piracy is wrong, of course, but little is said in these articles about the greed of the companies involved. Of course they're in it for profit, but they take the mick. It's 99 cents a track in the US and 99p in the UK. Why? Because they can. No-one's suggesting a paltry return for artists' work, but the more the companies "rip" us off, the more people will be inclined to seek pirate material.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    So let me understand this... you can be accused by the media companies of downloading their media. They don't actually have to provide proven evidence. Yet you will have to pay £20 to disagree with their allegation. Is there compensation when you prove your innocence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    UK legislation is beginning to resemble the jaws of a vice, surveillance of every kind, silly political correctness, untrustworthy & incompetent police, incompetent govt., I could create a litany of failures but most are only too aware of how far we've fallen. Despite this the hyper-wealthy elite continue to prosper, politicians continue to the population. Time to turn ones back on 'em all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    So you have to pay to prove your innocence?

    Erm, human rights anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    An accusation is not the proof of guilt.

    Charging a penalty or a fee to face such allegations is the thin edge of a wedge into all law order and society.

    And should a claimant prove innocent, will they be given fair recompense at the defamation of their character?

    It is not Draconian it is ORWELLIAN.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I for one would refuse to pay, and insist that they prove their case in court, obviously as I dont download pirated material this would then be at their expense.

    Oh of course I would also put in a claim for damages

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    This is a ridiculous proposal. What's next? Pay £200 to appeal a speeding ticket? £2000 to appeal putting the wrong type of waste in your bin?

    The concept of innocent until proven guilty is going out of the window by the looks of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    I though one was innocent until proven guilty? How can this possibly be legal? Oh right, justice is up for sale too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Make the MP's pay £20 to proof they are entitled to scam the expenses system the way they do, I didn't think so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    "very few musicians these days make a decent living out of selling their music"

    Very few musicians have EVER made a decent living out of selling their music. Something like 98% of all those taken up by the media companies are complete failures if you use making money as a yardstick. Those companies keep almost every penny made from sales for themselves. That's what's being protected here...

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    So after Andrew Crossley was suspended for speculative invoicing (, the government wants to get in in the act !

    Innocent until proven guilty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Now it's official that so many media types are utilising tax avoidance schemes, surely the best way to get back at them is to copy their stuff and avoid paying for it?

    Even if you don't like Jimmy Carr or Gary Barlow I urge you to download their material and feel the immense satisfaction of knowing you didn't contribute to their royalties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.


    It was still the BPA (or the MPA or similar).

    They took Mandy on a cruise and then a few days later he pulled the DEA out of nowhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I would happily contribute £20 to a fund to send the idiots who come up with this proposal to get some training and find a proper job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Since the introduction of WPA keys, and the terms stating you need to 'keep this safe' blaming other people for using your internet is not an option, since it would take a hacker about 3 years to crack some WPA keys. The sooner people realise they don't live in a private bubble the better. just stop stealing software/music/videos and all will be well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    These moves do seem a little draconian. However, the other side of the coin is that very few musicians these days make a decent living out of selling their music. I find that sad, and a possible explanation of why the current music scene is so dire. There is no money to be had, and no nurturing of talent. Consequently, today's bands and singers are mediocre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    For me, filesharing has similarities with the concept of a lending library.
    In the 90s, I could go to a library, borrow a CD/video.
    If I liked it, I would buy it on merit.
    I resented times that I bought albums for the strength of a couple tracks only to find that the full album was utter tosh. Software companies admit that students use pirate copies to learn the software.
    Unrealistic legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    9. Nick Martin

    I wonder how much the BPA paid the Tories to bring this in?


    Nothing. The act was implemented by the previous Labour government in a hurry before they got kicked out of office.


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