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Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, warned internet users today that the days of "consequence-free" illegal filesharing are over as he unveiled the government's plan for cracking down on online piracy.Mandelson, speaking at the government's digital creative industries conference, C&binet, confirmed that the internet connections of persistent offenders could be blocked - but only as a last resort from the summer of 2011.He added that a "legislate and enforce" strategy was the only way to protect the intellectual property rights of content producers. "Three strikes is a reasonable way of describing our approach," he said.The strategy, which will be officially set out in the government's digital economy bill in late November, will involve a staged process of warning notifications with internet suspension as a last resort."It must become clear that the days of consequence-free widespread online infringement are over," Mandelson said. "Technical measures will be a last resort and I have no expectation of mass suspensions resulting."The legislation is expected to come into force in April next year.The effectiveness of the warning letters to persistent illegal filesharers will be monitored for the first 12 months. If illegal filesharing has not dropped by 70% by April 2011, then cutting off people's internet connections could be introduced three months later, from the summer of that year."If we reach the point of suspension for an individual, they will be informed in advance, having previously received two notifications – and will have the opportunity to appeal," Mandelson added. "The British government's view is that taking people's work without due payment is wrong and that, as an economy based on creativity, we cannot sit back and do nothing as this happens."Mandelson said that the strategy was a "proportionate measure that will give people ample awareness and opportunity to stop breaking the rules". "The threat for persistent individuals is, and has to be, real, or no effective deterrent to breaking the law will be in place," he added.There would be a "proper route of appeal" for those that do have their internet accounts suspended, Mandelson said. He added that he did not want to see internet service providers "unfairly burdened" by the new system."ISPs and rights-holders will share the costs, on the basis of a flat fee that will allow both sides to budget and plan," he said.The staged roll-out of the strategy will see Ofcom assess the effectiveness of the warning notification system on cutting illegal filesharing, backed by the threat of legal action by rights holders and content companies, in about April 2011.If the 70% reduction is not achieved the use of technical measures to cut off persistent offenders' web access will be introduced by about July 2011.Should this system be introduced repeat offenders will be warned they are infringing and then, in a second letter, told that technical measures could be implemented. Further infringement will lead to the offenders' names being put on a "serious infringers list", with ISPs then "obliged to exercise technical measures".No timetable was given by the government for the speed with which the process can go from a warning letter to internet suspension.When infringers are informed that they face having their internet access suspended, they will have 20 working days to appeal to an independent body, to be established by Ofcom. The suspension will not come into force until the appeal has been heard.If the first appeal is unsuccessful the infringer can lodge a second appeal within 20 working days.