Report on European Commission  High Level Conference on Counterfeiting and Piracy 13 May 2008

John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI), has accused the telcos and ISPs of filibustering and avoiding coming to the table to discuss co-operation measures with the music industry. His attack was delivered during an event organised by the European Commission to discuss policy issues related to online piracy and counterfeited goods.

 Mr Kennedy said that he first called on the ISPs at a conference organised by ETNO (European Telecommunications Network Operators Association)  in 2005, and "three years later, there has been little or no action from the

telcos. The best tactic they employ is to filibuster." he said.  He continued to pour scorn on them saying they only act in their own self-interest, making the claim  that "all major ISPs throttle P2P traffic when it suits their business" and complaining that  they  won't help his industry by  cutting  off people who infringe copyright: "these companies help themselves when it suits them".

 

Simon Milner, speaking for BT, countered by asking where the customer interest was in this debate:  "we haven't heard much about the customer today. A lot of data is private to the individual and we must not treat it as public data." And he added "If we cut off an account because of one person, what about the others in the household? It is unacceptable in this day and age to cut off people's broadband service". 

But Mr Kennedy  held up a stark  choice  - it's either  filtering or  litigatation. Describing his view of filtering "it gives the ISPs a gatekeeping role, not policing" , he added tellingly "surely its better than litigation" . What he seemed to be saying was that either the ISPs, and the policy-makers, meet his requests, or IFPI will ramp up litigation against  the ISP's customers in cases of alleged copyright infringement. Is this a smoking gun?

On the French Olivennes proposals, he commented "our industry has to thank Sarkozy for his ground-breaking agreement...we look to the EU to capitalise on the momentum created by Olivennes". Bearing in mind that this was an EU policy-forming event, such comments take on greater significance and will concern the many who do not agree with the Olivennes proposals. 

It was certainly refreshing to hear BT standing up for the customer  - and the public interest - and given that the general tone of the conference seemed to be decidely pro-enforcement ( a little worrying), Mr Milner was in a difficult spot.   

 But was the IFPI chairman just a little more rattled than he let on? His speech delivery was hurried and dense, more akin to what one would expect from someone new to public speaking, not an accomplished communicator like Mr Kennedy.