Ofcom unveils draft code in which ISPs will be required to send warning letters to alleged illegal downloaders of film, TV or music.

UK media regulator Ofcom has unveiled a draft code for the UK government’s delayed Digital Economy Act (originally passed in 2010), which outlines how the UK’s biggest ISPs - BT, O2, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk Group and Everything Everywhere – will have to send warning letters to alleged illegal downloaders of film, TV or music.

The letters, which will only commence in March 2014, will explain copyright and how to find legitimate content, and give advice on protecting internet connections from unauthorized users.

If customers receive three or more letters within a year, they will face having information of their downloading history provided to copyright owners who can then potentially take legal action against the offenders.

Web users will be able to challenge allegations through an independent appeals body at a cost of £20 ($31.24), which will be refunded if they are successful.

“It is essential that government creates the right conditions for businesses to grow,” said creative industries minister Ed Vaizey. “We must ensure that our creative industries can protect their investment. They have a right to charge people to access their content if they wish, whether in the physical world or on the Internet.

“We are putting in place a system to educate people about copyright to ensure they know what legitimate content is and where to find it. The Digital Economy Act is an important part of protecting our creative industries against unlawful activity.”

Ofcom’s draft code – which, after a consultation period, is expected to pass through parliament at the end of the year – also gives a breakdown of the costs involved to implement and operate the new system.

A significant portion of the costs of the new service are to be met by rights holders.

The consultation on the online infringement of copyright code closes on July 26. The separate consultation on the allocation of costs for enforcing the code is open until September 18.

The code comes after years of wrangling over the detail in the Digital Economy Act, with ISPs taking their cases to court to avoid the costs incolved in the Act.