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Web pirates placed in 'slow lane'

4 June 09 16:46 GMT

The government has all but ruled out using a "three strikes" law to tackle persistent net pirates.

Using warnings and disconnection to tackle pirates was thought to be in the final Digital Britain report due to be published on 16 June.

Cutting people off was not the government's "preferred option", said culture secretary Andy Burnham in a music industry conference keynote.

Instead, he said, the report will back "technical solutions" as a deterrent.

Mr Burnham made his comments during a keynote speech at Music Week's Making Online Music Pay conference.

The interim Digital Britain report was released on 29 January, 2009. The wide-ranging review looked at everything from broadband speeds to internet regulation and public service broadcasting.

The final review was widely expected to back a so-called three strikes law that music companies have called for. This would see a person's net connection terminated if they ignored official warnings about pirating digital content.

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, said this was not the government's preferred option now that net access was as valuable as other utilities such as water and electricity.

Although unwilling to give exact details, the spokesman said: "The Digital Britain report coming out soon will build on last year's Memorandum of Understanding between content holders and ISPs to tackle illegal file sharing."

"It is likely to include an obligation on ISPs to send out letters to people who are infringing copyright," he said.

"What Mr Burnham also said was there was the likelihood that the MoU would be backed up by new powers for Ofcom to impose 'technical solutions' for repeat offenders if that process of sending out letters was not effective enough," added the spokesman.

It is not yet clear what those "technical solutions" would be though Mr Burnham said they would involve ways to "limit or restrict" file-sharing activity.

Mar Mulligan, vice president at Forrester Research, took this to mean that pirates would gradually have their connection speed dialled down.

"It instinctively sounds like a decent compromise," said Mr Mulligan.

"We know that ISPs currently use a mix of technical solutions to manage traffic at peak times," he said. "The ISPs already have the technical infrastructure to implement this kind of stuff."

"The sign of a good compromise is one that going to annoy both sides," he said. "I think ISPs will have an issue with it and so will the music labels."

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