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ISPs in US agree to punish users for downloading pirated movies

Is this the 'game changer' communications minister Ed Vaizey was talking about?  

By CBR Staff Writer

Top Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the US have agreed to punish Internet users who download songs and movies from pirate websites after warning them.

As a part of the punishment ISPs could slow down Internet speeds or shut down the connection for such offenders, says a report in The New York Times.

Copyright owners have stressed that the agreement does not oblige ISPs to shut down a repeat offender’s Internet connection. They said that the warnings that would be sent to the offenders would be "educational."

The Internet carriers that are involved in the agreement with media companies include AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable.

Verizon has said that the agreement does not infringe on the privacy of users.

Verizon executive vice-president and general counsel Randal S. Milch said, "This is a sensible approach to the problem of online content theft and, importantly, one that respects the privacy and rights of our subscribers."

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In the UK, the debate about blocking pirate websites is on, even as illegal downloading of films continues to grow.

Internet research company Envisional has revealed that illegal downloading of films in the UK grew nearly 30% in five years, according to a report by the BBC.

Such illegal downloading of films is estimated to cost hundreds of millions to the film industry as well as thousands of job losses.

A few days ago, Culture and communications minister Ed Vaizey had said that the UK could block websites with unlicensed or copyright infringing content if the US introduces a similar policy.

Vaizey also said that there are rumours that ISPs in the US are considering a voluntary blocking of such websites and that it could be a "game changer" in the fight against online piracy the world over.

Last week, digital rights campaign group, The Open Rights Group (ORG) criticised the government after its request to attend a meeting on 15 June between Vaizey, ISPs and copyright holders was turned down.

The ORG accused that right holders had presented a secret proposal to Vaizey.

ORG executive director Jim Killock said the covert manner in which the government and the trade groups were proceeding on the policy is unacceptable.

Consumer Focus, which attended the meeting, raised concerns over the "disproportionate"measures suggested in the paper.

Consumer Focus said, "Consumer Focus has serious concerns about the proposal by copyright owner trade associations which would see ISPs block access to websites at a network level for all UK users."

The watchdog’s main concern is the fact that the trade associations do not identify the problem.

It added, "We do not believe website blocking should be seriously considered as an option if copyright owners have not licensed their content to meet consumer demand through new digital platforms."

"We understand that the Premier League would like to see websites blocked which enable UK consumers to stream football games from other territories. We believe that the first step to address this problem is to assess whether consumers’ evident demand for streaming football games online is met by legal services.

"Consumers’ willingness to, or preference for, watching football games online and on mobile devices will not diminish because access to unlicensed websites is blocked.

As such website blocking does not represent an effective solution."

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