Being literally woken up this morning to hear the radio saying 'music industry' and 'letters' and 'agreement' didn't feel like a good start to the day. The British music industry has co-erced a number of ISPs - current information suggests 6 of them - into the first stages of a 3 strikes programme. Details are still emerging, but it seems that the ISPs have agreed to send out a certain number of letters per week - perhaps a thousand per ISP per week - which could be hundreds of thousands a year. It isn't clear whether these are emails or letters through the post. But irrespective of how they are sent, it is clear that this is a mass-scale move by the BPI to punish file-sharers. And it is being done as a move to get around current European law, which prevents the government from legislating.
The ISPs who agreed to this deal should be ashamed of caving in to such a proposal which represents an infringement of civil liberties, and is part of a wider European agenda by the music and film industries to get them to police the Internet, monitoring users and blocking access to content, to support copyright.
The deal was brokered by Baroness Shriti Vadera, the former banker who is...
now Parliamentary under Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Her department will be publishing a set of policy options today, we understand. However, the government line does not appear to be uniform. Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, speaking on the BBC Today programme, said he would prefer to allow teenagers to listen to music in the way they want, without sending threating letters to their parents.
The BPI appears to be hiding behing the consumer-friendly face of Feargal Shearkey, the former pop star who represents British Music Rights - authors and composers. Speaking on the BBC, he reiterated what he has already told iptegrity.com - that British Music Rights does not support termination of users contracts. And he said that he wanted to see new 'all-you-can eat' licenced music services become available online - I suspect this is not the BPI line. This appears to indicate that the industry itself is divided on the 3 strikes issues, which makes me wonder all the more why the ISPs felt they had to cave in to the meaner and tougher BPI demands.
Nicholas Lansman, secretary-general of ISPA, the ISP trade body, tried to play it down. Also speaking on the Today programme, he said it was just the six large ISPs, and not about cutting people off the Internet or punishing parents. He also said that there are further negotiations going on behind closed doors and he hoped for a deal in the coming weeks which will make available a low-cost offer for music online.
But one thing that no-one address, was the question of defining 'piracy' and 'illegal'. Copyright law is complex, and it is not necessarily so straightforward to determine what is a legitimate use and what is an infringement of copyright. One must question why the government is pushing this forware without pinning down what is and isn't 'illegal'.
Also, this move needs to be seen in the European context. Under current European law, the government currently is not able to legislate. I will shortly be putting up further information on this.
I heard the news on the Today programme. It is available on the BBC website.
The BPI does not at the time of writing, have a press release on its website.