I noticed this story on the BBC earlier. It would seem that under proposals being seriously considered by OFCOM anyone accused of internet piracy by their ISP WITHOUT evidence will be forced to pay £20 just to contest their innocence.
Now if you ask me our country and legal system is built on the idea of innocent until proven guilty. This flies very strongly in the face of that. Innocent but pay the fine to prove it. That's either not innocent therefore guilty or one hell of a dangerous precedent.
ISPs will be expected to help fund and run the scheme and they will inevitibly pass the cost on to us. Piracy is an issue. A huge one and one that needs addressing. But charging people £20 who may have done nothing wrong just to prove it? That'll do far more damage to free speech and society at large than whatever piracy does.
The article below is taken from the BBC Technology News website and can be found in it's original form here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18594105
Internet piracy appeal fee challenged by Consumer Focus
Suspected internet pirates will have 20 working days to appeal against allegations of copyright infringement and must pay £20 to do so, according to revised plans to enforce the UK's Digital Economy Act.
The details are contained in secondary legislation presented to Parliament and a draft code published by Ofcom.
The telecoms regulator said it expected the scheme to begin in 2014.
Campaigners oppose the fee saying users should be innocent until proven guilty.
The Creative Industries Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: "We must ensure our creative industries can protect their investment.
"They have the right to charge people to access their content if they wish, whether in the physical world or on the internet."
Accused users who wish to appeal against the claims outlined in any letter must pay £20 to do so, but the revised code says only grounds specified in the act will be considered.
Campaign group Consumer Focus chief executive Mike O'Connor said: "Copyright infringement is not to be condoned, but people who are innocent should not have to pay a fee to challenge accusations.
"Twenty pounds may sound like a small sum, but it could deter those living on low-incomes from challenging unfair allegations."
He added the best way to reduce unnecessary appeals was for Ofcom to require a high standard of evidence from copyright holders to avoid notifications being sent out on the basis of "flimsy evidence".
Ofcom noted its revised code stated rights holders would only be able to gather evidence using measures approved by the regulator.
ISPs - who must also contribute to the cost of running the scheme - will ultimately be required to take steps against repeat offenders such as limiting their broadband speed or suspending their accounts.
However, Ofcom noted this would require further legislation that could only be considered after the letter scheme had been in force for a year.
Even so, members of the Creative Coalition Campaign, welcomed the latest step towards implementing the copyright crackdown.
"We urge ISPs to begin building their systems now and to work constructively with rights holders, Ofcom and government to get notice-sending up and running as soon as possible," said John Smith, general secretary of the Musicians' Union.
The BBC's tech correspondent Rory Cellen-Jones also commented on the issue. Below is a copy of his thoughts that can also be found, in original form, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18578344.
The Piracy Code, episode 47
Today's news of the latest phase in the war against internet piracy takes me back to my O-Level history lessons. As we learned about the Schleswig Holstein question our teacher told us of the quote from Palmerston - only three people understood it, one was dead, another was mad, and he himself had forgotten what the question was.
That's how I feel about the Digital Economy Act (DEA). The passage of this controversial law through Parliament in the dying hours of the last government was marked by fevered arguments. To copyright holders in the music, TV and software industries the legislation was a much needed protection against what they saw as the scourge of online piracy. To web freedom campaigners and Internet Service Providers it was an expensive and illiberal assault on consumer rights that would cripple the open internet.
Two years on they've both been proved wrong because the law hasn't been put into effect. But today Ofcom has published the code which sets out how the letters to alleged copyright infringers - the key measure in the act - will be sent out. So now we will finally see who's right about the benefits/dangers of the legislation.
Err, no - the first letters will not be sent until 2014 and there is still room for plenty of argument because we now get another consultation process on the code, after which it gets sent to the European Commission.
Within a couple of hours of the code's publication, Consumer Focus was objecting to the £20 fee that consumers will have to pay to challenge accusations of copyright infringement. For its part, the Open Rights Group said Ofcom had been asked to put lipstick on a pig, and predicted that some people would end up in court having done nothing wrong.
Amongst the most vociferous - and effective - critics of the DEA so far has been BT, which as an Internet Service Provider has been unhappy about what it saw as the act's assault on the freedom of its customers. Along with TalkTalk, BT mounted a judicial review of the legislation. That failed eventually, but it played a big part in delaying the law's implementation.
Last week Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, criticised BT for its delaying tactics. He mused that its approach might change now that it had spent a huge sum on Premier League football rights which it might want to protect from online piracy. No word yet from BT on those new rules on the piracy letters - which will not arrive at households until after its new football service is launched.
So, expect plenty more arguments before we finally discover whether the Digital Economy Act really has the potential to be as good for the creative industries or as bad for the consumer as the different lobbies claim.
Meanwhile you could argue that the whole enterprise already looks obsolete. The copyright holders have found that existing laws enable them to take action against piracy sites, with court rulings forcing ISPs to block access to Newzbin and the Pirate Bay.
And the focus seems to be switching from targeting consumers to going after the money - cutting off the funds to piracy sites which are becoming very big businesses.
Later this week I'm expecting to see some interesting research on the business models behind these sites, which collect large sums from advertising and through legitimate payments systems. The government is beginning - extremely slowly - to contemplate legislation to cut those connections, in the form a Communications Act due by the end of this parliament.
So by the time the Schleswig Holstein question of the Digital Economy Act is resolved, we may have another law to fight over. If we're not all mad or dead by then…