Internet service providers (ISPs) and digital rights groups have reacted angrily to Ofcom's draft proposals for combating illegal file sharing as part of its remit under the Digital Economy Act.
ISPs with over 400,000 customers will have to notify customers when they are being cited for alleged copyright infringement, and rights owners will be able to demand the details of users who have been warned three times.
The ISP could then receive a court order to have the anonymity of the offending customers removed in order that legal action can be pursued against them.
Andrew Heaney, executive director of TalkTalk, suggested that Ofcom had made a "valiant attempt to implement the hospital pass it was given in the Digital Economy Act", but that the proposals will lead to a bureaucratic nightmare.
"As the code stands, millions of customers would be at risk of being falsely accused of copyright infringement, being wrongly put onto an 'offenders' register' and potentially taken to court," he said.
"Copyright owners are the only ones that will benefit from this system. Unless the government decides these companies should reimburse ISPs' costs, broadband customers will in effect be subsidising the profits of music and film firms."
Heaney also said that the decision to exempt smaller ISPs and mobile operators is "arbitrary" and could lead to market distortion.
A spokesperson for BT said that the company will review the document in the coming weeks before submitting an official response, but added that BT is concerned that too much emphasis is being put on the larger ISPs.
"Ofcom's proposal to limit the obligations to seven fixed operators, and exclude mobile operators and ISPs with fewer than 400,000 subscribers, is concerning," the spokesperson said.
"The UK boasts a highly competitive broadband market and such a move has the potential to distort this."
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, called on the government to bring about wholesale changes to the situation, arguing that the proposals are vague and unclear.
"This is another extremely rushed process forced by the Digital Economy Act's absurd timetables. There are huge unanswered questions, not least whether innocent people will have to pay to appeal," he said.
"Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, and the Liberal Democrats recognised the likely flaws of the Act during the debates. It is Mandelson's Act and they should not feel obliged to do his dirty work."
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