It seems the government is listening to pleas from the likes of U2 manager Paul McGuinesssregarding punishing illegal downloaders. According to The Times, which obtained a draft copy of a consultation document soon to be published by the government, proposed legislation could force ISPs to take action against those downloading files illegally or face prosecution themselves.

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Illegal downloaders face UK internet ban

The World's Creative Hub paper, which will be launched by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham and Prime Minister Gordon Brown next week, recommends a 'three strikes' rule. A first offence would see illegal file sharers issued with a warning email. Further activity would result in suspension of service, while those caught committing the offence for a third time would face termination of their broadband contract.

ISPs that fail to enforce the legislation would face prosecution and the details of any users suspected of undertaking illegal activity would be given to the courts.

An estimated six million people a year illegally download files in the UK, which reportedly costs music and film companies billions every year. BT and Virgin Media are just two of the ISPs that have already voluntarily broached the problem with major Hollywood studios but issues such as "Wi-Fi piggybacking", in which file sharers access the internet through a paid-for wireless network that is not their own, and the speed at which warning emails will be sent ensured the discussions have not created a suitable solution.

With France, which already implements a similar legislation, and the US already prosecuting illegal downloaders, Britain is under pressure to follow suit.

A spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association told the Times it remained hopeful that agreement over a voluntary agreement could be reached: "Every right-thinking body knows that self-regulation is much the better option in these areas."