The UK film industry has welcomed moves by the government to toughen up measures to tackle illegal file-sharing and to introduce them more quickly.

Stephen Timms, the new Digital Britain minister, confirmed yesterday (August 25) that the government is considering introducing hard-line technical measures, including suspending individual accounts. The move would increase pressure on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to take action against individual repeat offenders.

Media regulator Ofcom, who will police ISPs, will be asked to give regular updates to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), currently Peter Mandelson, on whether such action is necessary. There has been speculation that Mandelson has intervened in plans following meetings with creative industry figures, although these have been denied by BSI.

The plans are being considered as part of the Digital Economy Bill, which is due to be introduced this autumn. It was thought the bill would underpin plans outlined in June’s Digital Britain report, led by former communications minister Lord Stephen Carter, but the latest proposals are significantly stronger than the original measures.

The Digital Britain report outlined a notification scheme, under which ISPs would write to illegal downloaders and file-sharers to warn them about their activity. If an individual continued to offend ISPs would be hand their details over the rights holders, who could then pursue a court case. If that did not lead to a 70% reduction over a 12 month period, media regulator Ofcom would be given powers to introduce technical measures.

Tim Bevan, chairman of the UK Film Council, said piracy was the biggest threat facing the film industry and needed to be tackled urgently. He added: “We welcome the announcement, which speeds up the whole process and makes it clear that film piracy in whatever form is destructive and unacceptable.”

His points are echoed by Lavinia Carey, chair of Respect for Film and the director-general of the British Video Association, welcomed the “clarification” of the government’s thinking. She added she looked forward to working with all stakeholders to create a system that “immediately begins reducing copyright theft”.

Timm said the revised plans are a reaction to the responses it has received the consultation, which have highlighted concerns that the original plans will delay action and will impact unfairly on rights holders. The current consultation has now been extended to September 28.

The Internet Service Providers Association said it was concerned that the changes to the consultation has been made before all stakeholders had been given the chance to respond. It added that it was also concerned that the involvement of the Secretary of State in deciding when technical measures are introduced would “politicise” the process.