The recent news that the Government's Digital Economy Bill could potentially hand copyright trolls the means to threaten online users with prison sentences of up to 10 years for file-sharing has casued quite a ripple across the online community. 

Copyright trolls are often legal firms that send out legal warning letters to people suspected of unauthorised downloading of copyrighted material.

These firms often send out the warnings to people who have never downloaded legally infringing content.

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The trolls threaten court action unless the individual pays a huge sum of money.

If the Digital Economy Bill passes unchanged these trolls will be able to send out warning letters threatening users with 10 years imprisonment.Evening Times:

If you receive one of these letters and are unsure how to respond seek legal advice.

Do not ignore the letter - even if you believe that you or anyone with access to your internet connection hasn’t shared the copyright protected material without the copyright owner’s permission.

You should respond, even if you request more time to seek advice before you provide a more detailed response.

If you don’t know anything about the alleged copyright infringement check the letter is genuine.

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There are scams operating where letters are sent to try and gain compensation from you when you might not have to pay. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may be able to tell you if the letter is part of a legitimate enforcement process.

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You should also consider checking with anyone who might have access to your internet connection.

For example family and friends who may have your permission and password to use your wi-fi. They may have downloaded or uploaded copyright protected material, and they may be responsible for the alleged infringement.

It is the responsibility of the copyright owner to PROVE who has committed the infringement.

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This may or may not be the internet account holder.

It’s important to understand that the copyright owner can only take action against people responsible for an infringement. This may not be you.

Your ISP can only provide them with details of the internet account holder, but this may not be sufficient for you to be held responsible for the infringement.

A second day of report stage for the Digital Economy Bill  is scheduled for March 20 in the House of Lords.