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ISPs targeted by music body

In what is being hailed as an unprecedented move this side of the Atlantic, the British music industry is demanding that two internet service providers (ISPs) cut the internet service of people it has identified as illegal file sharers.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), long a fierce critic of illegal file sharing, says it has identified 59 people for illegally downloading music. 17 are with Tiscali and the remaining 42 are with Cable & Wireless.

According to the BPI the terms and conditions of both ISPs state their services should not be used for copyright infringement. The music body said it was time the ISPs enforced its contract until the accused sign undertakings agreeing to stop unauthorised file sharing.

The move by the BPI does not guarantee the alleged thieves will be ousted from their broadband services. ISPs in the UK have argued that they are not responsible for what their customers download and that any heavy handed use of the law would result in more problems.

In a statement however, Cable and Wireless said: “Cable & Wireless and its ISP, Bulldog, have an acceptable use policy that covers illegal filesharing. This would normally mean that any accounts used for illegal filesharing are closed. We will take whatever steps are necessary to put the matter right.”

Tiscali, told Reuters that it does not freeze customer accounts automatically when asked to, but can do so after an investigation.

The BPI’s move illustrates the ever-shrinking world of the music pirate. Since the end of the 90s, various music bodies around the world have brought the battle to the very doorsteps of the pirates and with some success. The BPI, to date, has pursued legal action against 139 people with 111 choosing to settle out of court paying amounts of up to £6,500.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has also launched similar campaigns in the US where it has regularly sued hundreds of people at a time for sharing illegally downloaded music.

The BPI’s Chairman, Peter Jamieson said in a statement: “We have demonstrated in the courts that unauthorised file sharing is against the law. We have said for months that it is unacceptable for ISPs to turn a blind eye to industrial-scale copyright infringement.

“We are providing Tiscali and Cable & Wireless with unequivocal evidence of copyright infringement via their services. It is now up to them to put their house in order and pull the plug on these people.”

This is the first time the BPI has turned its attentions towards ISPs. Its three-year campaign has until now been focused on individual uploaders.

The BPI said the move against ISPs who have so far failed to take effective steps to stop illegal file sharing marks a significant development in its campaign.

It said its evidence had been gathered using the unauthorised file sharing networks themselves. Whenever an individual uses a file sharing network they reveal the unique IP address for the internet account being used at that time. The BPI is able to identify from the IP address which ISP provides the service. But only the ISP knows to which individual the IP address belongs.

Earlier this month, UK music firm Flowerburger Records began circulating a petition requesting that the British Parliament and the BPI stop the lawsuits against music fans and develop constructive alternatives aimed at compensating artists.

In a statement the record group said: “Fans generally want payment for musicians but cannot always afford to buy CDs or downloads and will therefore naturally use P2P file-sharing and other downloading methods to listen to music,” the petition states. “The music industry is a creative industry that should be exploring ways to earn money for its artists from P2P, not using the destructive force of litigation.”

The BPI did not immediately return phone calls.

Comment:

The relative success of the RIAA and its swoops across the pond have resulted in thousands of dollars in fines. However, the practice of suing individuals for downloading music over the internet has reached new levels with today’s news that the game now involves the ISPs.

As this is being written, several UK sites advocating P2P (peer-to-peer) sharing are arguing that the techniques being used to track pirates’ IP addresses is itself illegal.

Telecoms.com will be posing that question to the BPI as soon as it responds.

We think it unlikely ISPs will be falling over themselves to prosecute users who have been caught out, unless of course a body like the BPI or RIAA are behind it.

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