Blocking filesharing websites will be no 'silver bullet', says Ofcom

Ofcom's Ed Richard: warning over illegal filesharing
Ofcom's Ed Richard: warning over illegal filesharing

The ability within the Digital Economy Act to block websites engaged in illegal filesharing will not be a "silver bullet" in the battle against copyright theft, Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards has warned government.

In an oral session with the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday, Richards said dealing with websites that infringe copyright is complicated by the fact they can "quickly reinvent themselves" with a new URL.

Richards said: "Website blocking is not going to be a silver bullet. We take a balanced view about what may or may not be possible. The idea that website blocking would always be effective is nonsense. And to say that it should never apply is wrong too."

Last year’s Digital Economy Act included provision for sites that allow copyright infringement to be blocked and for persistent online sharers of copyrighted material to have their internet connection cut off.

Internet service providers BT and TalkTalk sought a judicial review of the Act claiming that the law received "insufficient scrutiny" in Parliament and could lead to millions of customers having their privacy invaded.

Last month the High Court rejected BT and TalkTalk's claim that the Act is "unfair" and the Government has now begun to consider a draft Initial Obligations Code, provided by Ofcom, in a step towards implementing the Act.

Richards said the High Court’s ruling was a "big step forward, especially with how definite the decision appeared to be".

After pressure from MPs, including novelist and Conservative member for Corby and East Northamptonshire, Louise Bagshawe, Richards said he did not expect the first letters to be sent to illegal filesharers before the end of this year.

Though the procedures that need to be in place will be run simultaneously where possible, Richards said he expected the implementation to take "some months" and the first letters will be unlikely to go out within 12 months.

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