ISPs facing U.K. piracy legislation

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The BPI has urged ISPs to work with the music industry as the U.K. government prepares to announce proposals to deal with illegal file-sharing.

The trade body today said it applauded the government's willingness to tackle the issue. It follows widespread reports in the U.K. media that ministers are poised to commit to legislation that will force ISPs to cut off broadband users who illegally download films and music.

A government Green Paper on the creative industries is set to propose a "three-strikes" rule, where users suspected of illegal file-sharing will first receive a warning, followed by a suspension for the second infringement and finally a termination of the contract. Those broadband companies which fail to comply would be prosecuted.

The legislation is similar to the new French regulations on copyright infringement, although the British proposals are still subject to a consultation process. As previously reported, President Nicolas Sarkozy created an anti-piracy body last November, following recommendation from a committee headed by Denis Olivennes, head of the French entertainment chain FNAC.

At Midem last month, U2 manager Paul McGuinness brought ISPs to task during a hard-hitting speech on the music industry's ills.

BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor insists that the industry wants to partner with ISPs on new services that would "deliver even greater value for music lovers, artists, labels and ISPs". He says that telecoms companies are stifling legal online music services by continuing to profit from a culture of "something for nothing" among broadband customers.

Taylor adds in today's statement: "We simply want ISPs to advise customers if their account is being used to distribute music illegally, and then, if the advice is ignored, enforce their own terms and conditions about abuse of the account. But despite some agreements in principle, the ISPs refuse to do this on any meaningful scale.

"For years, ISPs have built a business on other people's music. Yet they have paid nothing to the creators of that music, and done little or nothing to address illegal downloading via their networks. This costs the music business hundreds of millions of pounds a year and will have serious consequences for investment in British culture in the long-term if it is allowed to continue."

Taylor says the BPI has been trying to encourage ISPs to introduce "reasonable measures" that could remove the need to bring action against the U.K.'s broadband customers who regularly use peer-to-peer networks to download music. The BPI claims up to six million people use the illegal services.

The IFPI also welcomed legislation to tackle illegal file-sharing.

"The tide of opinion is flowing in favor of ISP responsibility," says chairman and CEO John Kennedy in a separate statement. "News of the U.K. government's proposed consultation paper is very welcome and we hope for swift action from ISPs to disconnect persistent serious copyright infringers."

Andre Paine is a correspondent for Billboard. (London)
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