People accused of illegal filesharing will be have access to a 'robust and effective appeals mechanism' according to Ofcom.

The communications watchdog has been tasked in the controversial Digital Economy Act with ensuring that ISPs crack down on people who illegally propagate copyrighted files.

It's an unpopular measure with the ISPs, who fear that they will be harshly judged for being the instigators of action against their own customers, but Ofcom has now laid out its obligations under the new Act.

People accused by copyright holders must be contacted by their ISP, but it is up to the copyright holders to launch legal action and they will be expected to provide a Court Order to get the personal information of the accused.

Notification and challenges

"Qualifying ISPs will be required to notify subscribers of allegations made by copyright owners that their account has been used for unlawful file sharing and to maintain a list of the subscribers who receive multiple unchallenged notifications," explains Ofcom.

"Subscribers must be provided with sufficient information in any notification such that they can challenge the basis under which the notification has been sent. They must also have access to a robust and effective appeals mechanism.

"Subscribers on those lists may have their details passed to relevant copyright owners who may pursue legal action, though any such transfer of personal information will require a Court Order.

"Any processing of subscriber data must be in compliance with the relevant data protection laws."

Code of conduct

Ofcom is still considering letting the ISPs themselves draft the code of conduct, with a deadline of 8 months to come up with an agreement.

"Our first task will be to establish the feasibility of an industry drafted code," explains Ofcom.

"Such a code would need to have the support of a sufficiently wide range of stakeholders for it to be credible and would need to be submitted to Ofcom within a period of time which would allow Ofcom to satisfy the deadline for implementation.

"Failing this, Ofcom will move quickly to draft an appropriate code on which we will seek input from all stakeholders."