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ISPs furious at piracy tax proposals

A plan to recoup losses made to illegal downloads has been criticised in the UK by ISPs and mobile companies.

Earlier this week a proposal was put forward by a group of independent music labels under the umbrella of the Independent Music Association (AIM) for a change in copyright law and licensing that would effectively charge ISPs and operators to make up for losses made to piracy.

The proposal was put forward to the government’s review into intellectual property and among the suggestions is a plan to extend on legal file-sharing to create a licencing agreement that acts in a similar way to today’s radio licence. In theory, this would allow ISPs to host file sharing for a fee that would be divided between record companies and musicians.

ISPs in the UK are furious because, they claim, the proposals were not discussed with them prior to being announced. However the focus of their collective ire is directed at what they see as an unfair attempt at taxation. Although mobile operators are, largely, in the clear, peer-to-peer applications are available for handsets.

The Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA) said in a statement: “ISPs cannot monitor or record the type of information passed over their network. ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope. ISPs deal with many more packets of data each day than postal services and data protection legislation actually prevents ISPs from looking at the content of the packets sent.”

A spokesman for AIM conceded that neither the ISPs nor mobile operators were consulted prior to the presentation on Wednesday. “This was a very preliminary discussion… It’s the first formal debate the music industry has had on this and it really is for us [the music industry] to discuss the best solutions.”

The GSMA confirmed it had not been consulted on the proposals but said in an email:”The overwhelming majority of content stored on a phone is purchased legally from an operator… This proposal infers every single consumer is guilty of piracy, which is a crime, without consideration of whether they bought their content legally or indeed whether they use their device to store music at all.”


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