New proposals to combat illegal UK music downloads
UK music industry association the BPI (formerly known as British Phonographic Industry) has reached an agreement with the country's six largest ISPs, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Government. According to the agreement, ISPs, in conjunction with rights holders, are undertaking to achieve a "significant reduction" in illegal downloads. As part of the agreement, "hundreds of thousands of informative letters" will be sent to customers identified by the BPI as being allegedly engaged in copyright theft.
No sanctions are planned at present, with the hope being that the shock will do the trick. In conjunction with media regulator Ofcom, mechanisms for dealing with internet users who continue to ignore repeated warnings are, however, to be developed. 6.5 million UK internet users download illegal copyright material every year – 95 per cent of music downloads are reputed to be illegal.
The UK music industry is also proposing offering internet users the option of paying an annual 'license fee', of perhaps £30, allowing them to download and swap unlimited music tracks legally. In Germany, the idea of a "culture flat rate" has been a frequent topic in discussions on combating unlicensed downloading and swapping of copyright material – but has so far been rejected by groups such as performing rights societies.
As reported in the Telegraph, the British government and ISPs are now supporting the proposal for a license fee for the long-term fight against and prevention of online piracy, which would criminalise large numbers of internet users. The money would be paid to the music industry, with artists receiving an appropriate proportion depending on demand. If the model works, it could be used for films and other works.
The proposal is part of a planned package of measures to counteract illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted works. A legal framework for sending out warning letters has been considered, something ISPs are presumably hoping today's announcement will allow them to avoid. Following the French model, repeated infringements may result in internet access being blocked or bandwidth being restricted such that it is no longer possible to download large files. The possibility of forcing ISPs to reveal the identity of internet users who carry out illegal downloads or of including filters to prevent downloads is also being discussed.