22 Feb 2008
Internet service providers must take concrete steps to curb illegal downloads or face legal sanctions.
That is one of the proposals expected to be outlined by the government in an attempt to curb internet piracy.
Culture secretary Andy Burnham told the Financial Times that consultation would begin in spring and any legislation could be implemented "by April 2009".
Representatives of the recording industry, who blame piracy on a slump in sales, welcomed the proposals.
"ISPs are in a unique position to make a difference and in doing so to reverse a culture of creation-without-reward that has proved so damaging to the whole music community over the last few years," said John Kennedy, head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
A spokesperson for the Internet Service Provider's Association (ISPA) said that the creating appropriate legislation would be very difficult.
"Any scheme has got to be legal, workable and economically sustainable," Brian Ahern told BBC News.
He also said that ISPs were already pursuing self-regulation, which was the governments preferred route.
"The government has no burning desire to legislate," he added.
But Andy Burnham, culture secretary told the Financial Times that the government did have "serious legislative intent".
"Let me make it absolutely clear: this is a change of tone from the government," he said.
Their intentions will be outlined in a creative industries strategy paper published on Friday.
The document commits the government to consulting on anti-piracy legislation this spring "with a view to implementing it by April 2009", according to the FT.
"We're saying we'll consult on legislation, recognising there are practical questions and legitimate issues," Mr Burnham told the paper.
In particular, the any legislation would have to take account of the 2002 E-Commerce Regulations that define net firms as "conduits" which are not responsible for the contents of the traffic flowing across their networks.
European laws on online privacy could also create problems for any new legislation.
Earlier this year it was reported that the government was considering a "three strikes" approach to tackling persistent offenders in the report.
But Mr Burnham denied this was the case and told the FT that the strategy had "never been in the paper".
If the government goes ahead, the UK would be one of the first countries to impose sanctions.
"This is a sea-change in attitude and I believe it is now up to governments elsewhere in Europe and further afield to follow their example," said Mr Kennedy.
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