The government has dismissed reports that suggest business secretary Lord Mandelson plans to crackdown on illegal file sharing, by slapping hefty fines on thousands of individuals found guilty of abusing their web access.
A spokeswoman at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) told The Register that it was “nonsense” to “speculate” that Mandelson would target teenagers who illegally download music and films.
She said news reports that had appeared over the weekend were “simply journalists putting two plus two together and coming up with seven”.
The Daily Telegraph claimed that millions of people throughout the UK faced fines of up to £50,000 if their kids were caught illegally downloading films and music.
Meanwhile, according to the Times, Mandelson, who took over responsibility for digital policy after Lord Carter — author of the Digital Britain report — recently left the government, is supposedly mulling tougher measures against online piracy following a meeting with DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen.
He had a private dinner with Geffen, who is a long-standing critic of illegal file sharing, while holidaying in the Greek island of Corfu earlier this month at a villa owned by the Rothschild banking family.
However, the BIS spokeswoman denied that any discussion had taken place between the two men about internet piracy.
Treasury minister Stephen Timms, who took charge of the government’s Digital Britain plans earlier this month, told the Financial Times on Friday that UK.gov was hoping to reduce illegal file sharing in Blighty by 70 per cent within a year.
He confirmed that ISPs had been told to write letters to people caught illicitly downloading copyrighted material, and added that persistent offenders could face the threat of court action.
“The [70 per cent] target is a reasonable one,” Timms told the FT. “The concern is if the target isn’t hit, what happens then and how quickly we look at it again.”
Communications watchdog Ofcom would, under the Digital Britain proposals, be granted powers to step in; either by slowing internet connections or blocking access to piracy websites used by anyone who persists in illegal file sharing online.
Carter’s final report on Digital Britain was published in June. It stopped short of mandating a mechanism for persistent copyright infringers to be disconnected, but did suggest port blocking, protocol blocking, URL and IP address blocking, bandwidth capping, bandwidth shaping and filtering of specific content as sanctions. ®