Plans to disconnect illegal file-sharers scrappedGovernment deems legal procedures too complex

28 January 2009

British Phonographic Industry (BPI)

British Phonographic Industry

The government has blocked a recent bid to disconnect illegal file sharers.

The proposal, made last year by the  British Phonographic Industry (BPI), urged internet service providers (ISPs) to send warning letters to their customers who were illegally downloading music, before eventually terminating their connection if the downloads continued.

A recent report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) suggests that 95% of online music downloads are completed illegally. It says that of the 40 billion digital audio files downloaded last year, only 1.4 billion were legally downloaded.

'Illegal downloaders should not be arrested'

The Carphone Warehouse and BT were among the ISPs who agreed to the plan to disconnect those who illegally download, and Virgin Media even went as far as sending out warning letters to 800 of its customers.

But in an interview with The Times, David Lammy, intellectual property minister, said that the scheme couldn't be enforced due to complex procedures. 

He likened the severity of most illegal downloading offences to that of stealing a bar of soap from a hotel, stating that there was a big difference between organised counterfeiting gangs and 'younger people not quite buying into the system'. 

He said: 'We can't have a system where we're talking about arresting teenagers in their bedrooms.'

BT response

A BT spokesperson said that BT was still hopeful that an 'amicable solution, without the need for legislation' could be reached.

The report in The Times suggests that a 'rights agency' may be established, which could attempt to address the problem by levying additional charges on the broadband bills of those guilty of illegally downloading music. It has been suggested that the money may then be passed on to the music industry.

John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of IFPI, said: 'Governments are beginning to accept that...doing nothing is not an option if there is to be a future for commercial digital content'.

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