ISPs reject proposed law in call for self-regulation

ISPs reject proposed law in call for self-regulation

Industry says government proposals for restricting downloaders are unworkable

Government proposals for legislation to tackle illegal downloading are unworkable and should be scrapped in favour of self-regulation, say ISPs.

The plans for protecting intellectual property against digital theft are part of a wide-ranging policy initiative, designed to establish the UK as the “world’s creative hub”, to be launched this week by the prime minister and culture secretary Andy Burnham.

But the industry is working hard to find an alternative because laws governing technology have such a poor track record.

The last attempt ­ the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act ­ took three years to implement, says the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA).

And there are still uncertainties over ISPs’ role following anti-terror legislation.

“The history of law and technology providing efficient results is not great,” said an ISPA spokesman.

“Self-regulation is more nimble, not as restrained and is less cumbersome,” he said.
The industry’s proposals would involve rights holders, government and ISPs working together, without the need for new legislation.

And, crucially for providers, the scheme would leave the policing role to the government.

Prevention of illegal downloading is not a role for the industry, according to BT.

“The plan transfers the cost of copyright enforcement to the private sector, which is not our responsibility as a neutral carrier of traffic,” said a BT spokesman.

ISPs also argue that the burden of policing would be huge, with providers needing extra staff to monitor and contact those downloading illegally.

“There is a lot of legal peer-to-peer traffic, and sorting legal and illegal content would be difficult,” said a Virgin Media spokesman.

There are also potential data protection issues because service providers are not allowed to scrutinise customer data beyond a certain level.