Government announces filesharing crackdown

The UK government has announced tougher plans for combating illegal filesharing, in the wake of criticism over the Digital Britain report, which rights holders saw as too weak.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills issued an explanatory statement this morning, saying that it's looking at suspending the broadband accounts of persistent file-sharers. That's significant, because the Digital Britain report stopped short of recommending that course of action.

The report says that the proposals "would involve an obligation on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to take action against individual, repeat infringers - for example by blocking access to download sites, reducing broadband speeds, or by temporarily suspending the individual's Internet account".

The reason for the U-turn is due to deadlines that have been seen as unworkable - the government set a goal to reduce filesharing by 70% by 2010. The originally planned process to work out more sophisticated "technical measures" would have meant that action wouldn't have been able to be taken until 2012.

Meanwhile, the campaigns officer of the UK's Pirate Party, Philip Hunt, said in a post on his personal blog: "If Labour had any sense, what they would do is scrap this unworkable and unpopular plan, and instead put Tom Watson in charge of Digital Britain", as well as quoting a commenter on his site as saying: "I ever cease to be amazed at how persistent Labour is at choosing policies that are both unworkable and unpopular. Truly impressive".

The consultation on filesharing has been extended until the end of September, giving ISPs and copyright holders more time to get their views in over the legislation.

UPDATE: The UK Pirate Party has issued an official response: "Yet again the Government have done exactly what the big media cartel have told them. There is still no hint of a real discussion on the rights and wrongs of file sharing, or that the strong arguments in favour of legalistion will be given fair consideration".