BPI angry at U.K. minister over file-sharing

David Lammy appears to take pressure off ISPs

LONDON -- British recorded music body the BPI has reacted angrily to reported comments from a U.K. minister about the government's approach to involving Internet service providers in the prevention of music piracy.

In an interview with the Times of London, the government's intellectual property minister David Lammy seemed to indicate the U.K. government is no longer likely to pursue legislation forcing ISPs to contact, then disconnect, high volume file-sharers. Pointing to legal complications, Lammy was quoted as saying: "I'm not sure it's actually going to be possible."

"We can't have a system where we're talking about arresting teenagers in their bedrooms," Lammy continued. "People can rent a room in an hotel and leave with a bar of soap -- there's a big difference between leaving with a bar of soap and leaving with the television."

Speaking to Billboard.biz, BPI director of public affairs Richard Mollet dismissed the comments, saying British music creators are "sure to be insulted at the analogy between British music and complimentary soap from hotels."

"It shows an incredible lack of understanding [of the relationship] between music and illegal file-sharing from the minister in charge of intellectual property," Mollet said. "We are appalled to see him falsely raising the prospect of arresting people in their bedrooms and fail to see what place this has in the discussion."

In July, the BPI and the MPA joined with six of the U.K.'s leading ISPs to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that voluntarily bound both sides to a code of practice aimed at reducing online piracy.

A result of mounting pressure from the government's department for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, the memorandum also set into action a three-month consumer education trial that promised thousands of warning letters from ISPs to infringing users.

Earlier leaks had suggested the government's "Digital Britain" report would recommend the creation of a new body to act as mediator between ISPs and rights holders in suspected cases of copyright infringement.

Mollet declined comment on the likely content of that report, expected to be published Jan. 29, but confirmed the BPI position.

"The BPI has long called for government to maintain its commitment to introducing legislation to tackle music piracy," he said.