Thursday, July 24, 2008

ISPs and music Industry reach a deal

Six major UK ISPs seem to have reached a government brokered deal with the music industry to send nasty letters to anyone suspected of copyright infringement on via peer to peer file sharing.

"Six of the UK's biggest net providers have agreed a plan with the music industry to tackle piracy online.

The deal, negotiated by the government, will see hundreds of thousands of letters sent to net users suspected of illegally sharing music.

Hard core file-sharers could see their broadband connections slowed, under measures proposed by the UK government.

BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse have all signed up...

The plan commits the firms to working towards a "significant reduction" in the illegal sharing of music...

The six internet service providers have signed a Memorandum of Understanding drawn up by the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR)...

At the same time the government has started a consultation exercise that could result in laws that force net firms to tackle music piracy. A working group will be set up under the auspices of regulator Ofcom to look at effective measures to tackle persistant file-sharers...

The consultation document proposed that hard core file-sharers could have technical measures imposed, such as "traffic management or filtering and marking of legitimate content to facilitate identification"."

Apparently the MPAA has signed up too.

Evan Davis interviewed several people about the deal on the Today programme this morning, including Becky Hogge of ORG and musician Billy Bragg. It was really disappointing to hear someone like Davis suggesting repeatedly that cutting people off the Net for suspected file sharing was a proportionate option. Becky Hogge did her best to explain it to him in a paint-by-numbers way but I'm afraid he didn't get it. He could get his head round the idea that cutting off someone's electricity would be disproportionate but seemed to be completely baffled by the notion that cutting someone and their family off the Net - and possibly damaging their livelihood - could be even remotely equivalent. Someone needs to introduce the affable Mr Davis to Lilian Edwards' clinical dissection of precisely how seriously disproportionate such a response is. But that is the problem with modern public debate - there is no time or space set aside for serious analysis. It all has to be done in sound bites.

Having said that Billy Bragg had a nice sound bite: "Criminalising our audience is not going to help musicians make a living." He was also very convincing when Evan Davis couldn't get away from the idea "you're going to have to go in, monitor what people are doing" and stop them. Bragg's response was "are you really?" - after all his first real collection was taped from a friend and he loved the album so much he has bought loads of copies in various formats since then, so the artists eventually got their money. Davis chuckled at that in a way that suggested he may have done likewise and at least understood the point. Will it have a lasting effect on him? We'll have to wait and see.

Update: The Guardian is on the case, if only to have a dig at the Independent.

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