UK proposes cutting Web access to file sharers

LONDON Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:55am BST

A Google search page is reflected in the eye of a computer user in Leicester, central England, in this July 20, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Darren Staples

A Google search page is reflected in the eye of a computer user in Leicester, central England, in this July 20, 2007 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

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LONDON (Reuters) - Repeat offenders who persist in illegally downloading music from file-sharing sites such as Limewire could be blocked from accessing the Web under British government proposals issued on Tuesday.

The government said it was publishing new ideas to speed up the process of tackling unlawful peer-to-peer file sharing to prevent damage to the content industries.

Proposals include requiring Internet Service Providers to take action against individual repeat infringers, including blocking access to download sites, reducing broadband speeds or by temporarily suspending an individual's Internet account.

Earlier government proposals had said media regulator Ofcom would need to ascertain that technical measures were needed, meaning the earliest measures to counter the problem would not come into play until 2012.

"The government has now reached the view that, if action was deemed necessary, this might be too long to wait given the pressure put on the creative industries by piracy," it said in a statement. "The new ideas outlined today would potentially allow action to be taken earlier."

Under the new proposals, the Secretary of State would direct Ofcom to introduce technical measures to clamp down on piracy if necessary.

"Technology and consumer behavior is fast-changing and it's important that Ofcom has the flexibility to respond quickly to deal with unlawful file-sharing," Minister for Digital Britain Stephen Timms said in a statement.

Governments around the world have been trying to find a solution to the problem of Internet piracy, with varying levels of success.

A law backed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to cut Internet access to those found guilty of downloading music illegally has already been watered down by France's top constitutional court and a vote has been delayed until September.

(Editing by David Holmes)

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