Illegal filesharers facing 2011 bans

By Alex Stevenson

Illegal filesharers could find themselves being suspended from the internet as soon as the summer of 2011.

The government’s digital creative industries bill, to be announced in the Queen’s Speech, will contain the previously announced ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ proposals.

The bill could become law before the general election, but those persistently downloading films and music illegally would only find themselves blocked over a year after that.

After two letters multiple offenders will have their internet access suspended. They would then be given the opportunity to appeal.

Business secretary Peter Mandelson said he did not anticipate “mass suspensions” resulting from the move.

“It must become clear that the days of consequence-free widespread online infringement are over,” the Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying.

“Technical measures will be a last resort and I have no expectation of mass suspensions resulting.”

Lord Mandelson was speaking at the C&binet forum, a digital creative industries conference backed by the government.

His proposals have prompted a split in the industry. Artists’ representatives have objected to the idea, while record company groups have applauded it.

The likelihood of it becoming a reality was dealt a further blow by shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s stated opposition to the proposal.

Last month he claimed the move would stifle Britain’s creative industries.

Mr Hunt told Financial Times newspaper: “A legal threat to disconnect users could have the unintended consequence of stifling innovation in areas such as video games, where the UK has a strong creative base.”