Broadband providers in the UK are being asked to keep a database of customers who are illegally downloading films, music and books which could ultimately be used to help prosecute any repeat offenders.
The big broadband providers, including BT, BSkyB, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have been asked to sign a voluntary code by the BPI and British Video Association to help police illegal downloading of music and film.
The problem with the suggested database to be created is that they could be illegal under the Data Protection Act because companies are only allowed to keep information on individual people where it is needed for commercial purposes.
It is suggested that people get sent a letter when they have been caught illegally downloading, the letter could list warnings about what could happen to them if they continue to do so and also provide links to sites where they can legally download music, videos and books. Those who ignore the warnings could then face tough action, such as certain sites being banned, internet connection being throttled to slow it down, turning off a users internet connection for a certain period of time or even prosecution.
A Virgin Media spokeswoman, Emma Hutchinson, said:
“Music and film companies are speaking to broadband providers about how to address illegal file-sharing but what they’re currently proposing is unworkable.”
Someone from TalkTalk also said:
“We are involved in discussions about measures to address illegal file-sharing and ultimately would like to reach a voluntary agreement. However our customers’ rights always come first and we would never agree to anything that could compromise them.”
To get an idea of the scale of pirated material in the UK, between November 2012 and January 2013 there were 280 million music tracks, 52 million TV shows, 29 million films, 18 million ebooks and 7 million pieces of computer software illegally downloaded according to figures from the UK regulator Ofcom.
Ultimately broadband providers are likely to be slightly reluctant to want to have any of their customers getting into trouble as they want to keep customers on board with them and will side with their customers when it comes to personal details.