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5 Sep, 2013 10:28

UK internet providers to collect data on illegal downloaders - reports

Media companies have asked UK broadband providers to collate info on illegal downloaders, which could violate data protection laws. Those caught committing piracy could be subject to internet throttling and even prosecution.

In an attempt to clamp down on the illegal downloading of music and films, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the British Video Association have requested BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB and TalkTalk to record information on piracy.

The new code of conduct would oblige the companies to gather data on illegal downloaders and store it in a database. The information could then lead to repeat offenders having their internet cut-off or being prosecuted. Internet users will reportedly been given warnings by letter before these measures are taken, reports the Guardian.

The move has attracted controversy amid speculation that it may violate the Data Protection Act, as the law says that companies may only retain personal data relating to a client if it is for commercial purposes.  

"Music and film companies are speaking to broadband providers about how to address illegal file-sharing, but what they're currently proposing is unworkable," Virgin Media spokeswoman Emma Hutchinson told the Guardian. While a spokeswoman from TalkTalk said the new measure was currently under discussions, but “customers' rights always come first and we would never agree to anything that could compromise them."

The proposal comes as part of a nationwide clampdown on growing internet piracy. Between November 2012 and January 2013, UK watchdog Offcom reported that 280 million music tracks had been pirated, as well as 52 million television programs.

Furthermore, Offcom found that 18 percent of internet users aged over 12 had recently committed internet piracy, while one 9 percent actually fear getting caught.

Weeding out piracy

The UK has already taken some measures to cut down on internet piracy. The website The Pirate Bay is now blocked in Britain and the government has threatened legal action against six members of the Pirate Party for refusing to take down a Pirate Bay proxy website.

Following legal threats by the BPI, the Pirate Party UK decided to shut down the proxy website. Moreover, the BPI launched an unprecedented attack on torrent sites in May, seeking to block 25 web addresses.

The BPI maintain that the measures are taken to ensure protect the artists’ and legal services’ rights. However, UK Pirate Party leader Loz Kaye told RT that record labels were using the measures to maintain their monopoly and push smaller companies out of business.

“Essentially, this is about the record labels trying to remain gatekeepers and actually push other companies out. But this approach will not work! It’s going to alienate a generation of music lovers, and it’s going to perhaps radicalize internet users,”
said Kaye.