Recently, six of the United Kingdom’s largest Internet service providers (ISPs) agreed to a plan with the British record industry’s trade association, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the British government and the independent regulatory body OFCOM to tackle online piracy. The Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) has drawn up a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which has been signed by the six ISPs and the Motion Picture Association of America.

The plan aims to significantly reduce copyright infringement within two to three years, and to change popular attitudes towards infringement.

The MOU sets out five guiding principles that provide an industry framework for action. Specifically, the signatories have agreed to work together to:

  1. resolve the problem of unlawful peer-topeer file sharing and agree on appropriate codes of practice to be approved by OFCOM; 
  2. educate consumers about the value of the creative process; 
  3. package content in attractive formats for consumers, as user-friendly alternatives to illegal file sharing;
  4. notify users, as part of a three-month trial, that their accounts are being used unlawfully to share copyright material and point them towards attractive substitutes; and 
  5. identify alternative mechanisms to deal with repeat infringers, to report back in four months, and consider prosecuting serious infringers in appropriate circumstances.

BERR also initiated a consultation on regulatory options to address illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing of copyrighted works.

McCarthy Tétrault Notes:

These measures can be viewed as an evolution of the current UK approach — from education and limited legal action toward codification and the eventual imposition of greater regulation by the UK government.