ISPs likely to strengthen piracy fight

Panel talks ways to deter users from illegal downloads

VENICE -- The model for fighting illegal file sharing of films in Italy will likely be based on an agreement with Internet service providers, according to Robert Pisano, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Pisano was in Venice in part to participate in a panel on the subject in which the heads of several Italy-based authors and film producer groups lamented the growing problem of film piracy that threatens the traditional business model for film producers and distributors.

Pisano said in an interview that the best strategy to confront the problem is to use Internet companies to create incentives for computer users to use legal means to download films and other files protected by copyright law.

Pisano said there were scores of legal sites that allow users to buy or rent movies, but illegal file sharing remains rife because there are few obstacles to its use. That's where Internet companies come in -- they can monitor users' usage patterns and determine the 5% to 8% involved in illegal file sharing based on the amount of information they upload and download.

"Maybe the first couple of times they get a warning e-mail, then perhaps the speed on their account is reduced, and if they keep doing it then maybe their account is closed," Pisano said. "But our goal is not to punish anyone but rather to give them a reason to do the same downloading, but through legal channels."

The process is just starting in Italy, but it has the support of the Italian government. Minister of Culture Sandro Bondi was in Venice two days after the panel and he called the fight against the piracy of films, music, and software "a priority." Gaetano Blandini, the ministry's top film sector official, promised that the government was studying different methods of combating the problem.