Although proposals to kick illegal file-sharers off the internet after they have committed three offences were rejected this week by culture secretary Andy Burnham, the government's policy against persitent downloaders could change again with the prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle.
On Thursday, Burnham said that cutting people off the internet was not the government's "preferred option", and that the government would back "technical solutions" as a deterrent instead.
But a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has since warned that statements made by Burnham at Music Week's Making Online Music Pay conference were subject to change as Burnham switches roles with health minister Ben Bradshaw.
The warning adds to the 'will-they-won't-they' apprehensions many downloaders are likely to have already on the government's copyright policy, which appears to change depending on the government department and on policy across other European countries.
UK copyright groups are demanding fierce regulation for copyright infringement spurred by the French National Assembly's decision in mid-May to pass the 'three strikes' policy. Intellectual property minister David Lammy has also asserted that one in four UK citizens has tried file sharing.
The issue has been fiercely debated by the European Parliament, with the latest vote by MEPs rejecting ideas to restrict any individual's access to the internet, although the vote does not end the debate. Because Parliament has not agreed with the Council, the proposals will now enter the EU's conciliation procedure, where the two bodies will try and reach a compromise.
In February 2008, there were reports that the DCMS was considering a three strikes proposal similar to the French, although nothing since has come of it.
The UK Intellectual Property Office argued last month that any UK policy that comes into force to protect copyright would need to be agreed by industry bodies, including internet service providers and entertainment organisations, and relevant government departments.
A recent report by the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Policy said that, if unauthorised downloading cannot be stopped, the government either needs to enact fiercer legislation, or the creative industries will need to offer new ways for the legal downloading of material. The report noted the BBC's authorised programme-streaming iPlayer service, as well as music streaming services such as Spotify, as spurring the change in business models.
The government's exact stance on the issue will be laid out on 16 June in the long-awaited Digital Britain report.
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