Lord Carter reveals digital rights agency to combat illegal downloads

Communications Minister Lord Stephen Carter has revealed some details of his plan to create a digital rights agency that is designed to help combat illegal file-sharing.

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Communications Minister Lord Stephen Carter has revealed some details of his plan to create a 'digital rights agency' that would help ISPs and audio and visual content creators combat illegal file-sharing.

But Lord Carter warned that if the two sides cannot come to an agreement on how to handle illegal downloaders, he will either be forced to introduce legislation or wash his hands of the problem completely.

Answering MPs' questions about his interim Digital Britain report, Lord Carter said the 'Rights Agency' would be tasked with encouraging legal downloading, finding a "technical copyright support solution" to make illegal downloading more difficult and setting common standards in regards to licensing fees, which may help stop rows between online media providers and content creators.

According to a recent report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 95 percent of all online music downloads are completed illegally.

In July last year, six of the UK's largest ISPs, including BT, the Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media, signed an agreement with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) that they would issue warning letters to customers suspected of illegally downloading digital files.

The agreement was the first step toward implementing a 'three strikes rule' that would result in illegal file sharers having their broadband connection suspended and possibly even terminated if they continue to offend after being issued with a warning letter.

However, despite signing the agreement, none of the ISPs, apart from Virgin Media, appear to have begun issuing letters.

YouTube and the Performing Right Society are currently locked in such a battle over the licensing fees the video-sharing site pays when users stream music videos.

Lord Carter said the agency would work in conjunction with legislation to prevent illegal downloads and ISPs would be expected to hand over details of perpetrators.

He told the Guardian: "What we are proposing is that the ISPs would only be required to hand over information on the basis of evidence provided by the rights holders and there would only be a requirement to hand over personal data when it is the subject of a court order. The snooping accusation is colourful but it is not real".

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