26 April 2012
Last updated at 13:08
The Digital Economy Act seeks to curb rising rates of online piracy
The controversial piracy law, the Digital Economy Act, has again been delayed, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed.
The measures, such as letters to suspected illegal downloaders and potential disconnection, will not be enforced until at least 2014.
Since being passed at the end of the Labour administration in 2010, action has stalled due to legal challenges.
The delay was welcomed by the Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa).
Under the Act, letters sent out to apparent illegal file-sharers would offer advice on how to prevent such illegal activity.
Serious repeat offenders risk facing measures that limit, or even cut off, internet connection.
ISPs have criticised aspects of the Act, suggesting it would unfairly force them to police user behaviour on the internet.
“The fact it hasn’t been implemented is a good thing,” an Ispa spokesman said.
Continue reading the main story
For many years, the music, movie and television industries lobbied the government for protection against online piracy, while the internet service providers told politicians they could not be expected to police their customers.
When the Digital Economy Act was rushed through Parliament in the dying days of the Labour government, it appeared to be a great victory for the media industries.
But the ISPs fought back, and although their legal challenges largely failed, they resulted in this long delay in implementing the law.
Four years is a very long time in the fast-changing world of digital content. By the time the process of sending letters to suspected illegal file-sharers begins in 2014, the whole landscape may have been transformed.
The media firms may then find the Act is not as powerful a weapon against piracy as they had hoped.
“We don’t think it’s a particularly good piece of legislation.”
However, he added that there were other measures being discussed which could see a clampdown on piracy.
“There’s more than just the Digital Economy Act when it comes to tackling copyright infringement online,” he said.
“Ispa continues to believe that the most effective solution to the problem of users accessing unlawful content is for reform of the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online in a way that consumers are demanding.”
Last month, BT and TalkTalk lost a two-year legal bid to have the Act overturned. They argued it was incompatible with European law.
The repeated delays have led some industry observers to speculate that the Act’s measures will never come into force.
“I think I might be waiting for a fairy to arrive and wave her magic wand over the House of Commons saying ‘come to your senses, come to your senses’,” wrote Trefor Davies, chief technology officer for service provider Timico.
“Maybe that’s the point at which I wake up and find that I’ve been dreaming.”