In an almost hilariously insidious new report, it's been proposed that internet users suspected of piracy face a £20 charge when brought under accusation, just to have the opportunity to clear their names.
Ofcom have outlined revised plans proposed to enforce the UK's controversial Digital Economy Act will result in those suspected of internet piracy having 20 working days to appeal against allegations of copyright infringement (issued by letter from ISPs), and being charged £20 for the privilege of doing so.
"The draft code requires ISPs to send letters to customers, at least a month apart, informing them when their account is connected to reports of suspected online copyright infringement," reads the Ofcom report.
"If a customer receives three letters or more within a 12-month period, anonymous information may be provided on request to copyright owners showing them which infringement reports are linked to that customer’s account. The copyright owner may then seek a court order requiring the ISP to reveal the identity of the customer, with a view to taking legal action for infringement under the Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988."
Apparently the secrtetive and anonymous nature of everything is undertaken to ensure that the scheme focused "on the most persistent alleged infringers".
Eschewing the usual "innocent until proven guilty" practices of most legal proceedings, it would appear that this genius scheme is being brought in to essentially police the Net with a policy of "guilty until you pay to prove your innocence".
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “These measures are designed to foster investment and innovation in the UK’s creative industries, while ensuring internet users are treated fairly and given help to access lawful content.
“Ofcom will oversee a fair appeals process, and also ensure that rights holders’ investigations under the code are rigorous and transparent.”
Understandably, there've been some rather disgruntled reactions to the prospect of what could on an off day be considered bribing a bureaucratic body to prove your innocence.
"Copyright infringement is not to be condoned," Mike O'Connor, CEO of campaign group Consumer Focus, said, "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."
ISPs will not only be expected to contribute to the cost of running this scheme, but will also have to police their own service - dishing out throttled bandwidth and account suspensions for repeat offenders.
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."
Not that any of this will really be coming into play until 2014, though. By which time it'll be more outdated than dial-up, and the letters themselves will probably be mistaken for spam.