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Virgin Media and BPI deny 'deal'

by Scott Bicheno on 1 April 2008, 16:38

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Three strikes and who's out?

A story suggesting that ISP Virgin Media and the BPI - which represents the interests of UK record companies - 'are working together on a pilot which could see dozens of customers sent warning letters,' is incorrect according to both companies.

The story appeared to be intended as evidence that ISPs are succumbing to pressure from the music industry to do their bit to tackle illegal downloading.

It opened: 'Record labels are lobbying for a 'three strikes' regime that would see those who collect pirated material disconnected from the internet.'

It went on to say: 'The trial by the UK's largest residential broadband supplier will go live within months and disconnecting customers who ignore warnings, a sanction favoured by the record BPI, remains an option.'

Exciting stuff, but, according to Virgin Media and the BPI, untrue.

'Unfortunately it simply isn't true that we have agreed a pilot - or any sort of deal - with Virgin Media, though we continue to work towards that,' said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor on the BPI website, today. He did go on to add, however: 'We think that every socially responsible ISP should help their customers avoid the illegal use of their broadband account.'

'Three strike angle is not correct'

A Virgin Media spokesperson told today that: 'The BPI three-strike angle is not correct.' He did make it clear, however, that Virgin Media is aware of the April 2009 deadline that the government has set for ISPs and rights-holders to sort out the illegal file sharing situation.

The prospect of size Number 10 boots trampling into the situation is clearly unattractive to all concerned and could be the stick all parties concerned need to make them come to a mutually acceptable solution.

The Virgin Media spokesperson went on to reiterate the company line on the matter. 'We have been in discussions with rights holders' organisations about how a voluntary scheme could work. As a responsible ISP, Virgin Media is taking this problem seriously and would favour a sensible voluntary solution.'

However . . .

As we reported on the 29th March, Britain offers perhaps the world's most favourable climate to regulate the internet for the benefit of special interests.

In February, responding to industry lobbying not least from the BPI, the April 2009 Sword of Damocles was announced in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's publication of: 'Creative Britain - New Talents for the New Economy.'

If you can bring yourself to wade through the platitudinous padding that encumbers the first nine pages of the publication like a big pile of wasted public money, you get to the meaty bit.

Britain offers perhaps the world's most favourable climate to regulate the internet for the benefit of special interests

The section entitled 'Fostering and protecting intellectual property' opens with: 'We will consult on legislation that would require internet service providers and rights holders to co-operate in taking action on illegal file sharing, with a view to implementing legislation by April 2009.'

It goes on to say: '...the Government will equip itself to introduce legislation swiftly if suitable arrangements between ISPs and relevant sectors are not forthcoming or prove insufficient.'

'This is not the time for ISPs to delay further,' declared BPI's Taylor at the time. 'The government clearly shares the creative community's frustration at the failure of ISPs to take action.'

Creative community? The money is now in concerts, merchandising and artists' websites. Following Madonna's highly-publicised breaking of her exclusive £59 million deal with Warner last year to sign a ten-year contract with Live Nation, U 2 has signed for twelve years. The band's recording and publishing deal with Universal is unaffected, but its core commercial interest has moved on.

Perhaps the reason Virgin Media and the BPI have been so quick to correct the Telegraph story is that they know how futile such a scheme would be. If it is ever introduced, internet freedom fundamentalists will find a way, if they haven't already, around any ponderous regulatory/legislative mechanism that analogue brains can devise.

Sauce for the goose

In a related story, La Provence, a regional French newspaper, has broken a heart-warming story about PointDev, a small local developer, suing music giant Sony/BMI France for infringement of copyright.

Bailiffs raided Sony/BMI's offices in Clichy, outside Paris, on 22 January and seized four servers that were found to be using illegal copies of PointDev's Ideal Migration programme.

'We are not interested in an amicable settlement,' said PointDev CEO Paul-Henri Agustoni. 'The rate of software piracy in the company is very high.'

Zero Paid, a file-sharing news site, appeared to have been the first to break the news in the English language. Sadly, it then reported the Telegraph ISP story as fact.

Tsk, tsk, all round.

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