Blog Post

@ MidemNet: UK ISPs, Music Biz Warn Against Looming Govt Regulation

imageimageTrade bodies for both UK ISPs and the music business have used high-profile speeches to warn ministers against legislating to tackle illegal downloading – rumoured to be a recommendation in Lord Carter’s upcoming Digital Britain report.

Internet Service Provider Alliance (ISPA) secretary general Nicholas Lansman told the MidemNet conference in Cannes: “Laws rarely prevent what they forbid. There is a real chance that this will push P2P underground and ostracise our customer base.”

And UK Music CEO Fergal Sharkey added: “Government now intends to impose its own preferred solution. Regulation brings a cost to all parties – we need to be sensitive that the debt to be paid for an imposed UK government solution does not outweigh the benefits. I would urge a word of caution to government – any intervention must be designed to embrace new horizons and must be fit and proper to use in a modern world.”

UK ISPs last year sent thousands of warning letters to illegal freeloaders identified by the British Phonographic Industry and the Motion Picture Association of America. But that was just a voluntary trial. Lord Carter’s wide-ranging review will, reported Friday, recommend ISPs be legally compelled to continue the practice under the auspices of a new Rights Agency – one step closer to France’s comply-or-get-disconnected policy.

But Lansman said cross-border legal disparity made legislation complicated: “If we want to really want to capture the hearts and minds of consumers, is legislation across Europe, imposing sanctions on our customers, really the best answer?” Instead, he appeared to advocate self-regulation: “Rightsholders and ISPs must work together to make these problems go away – by educating people about why they should not be download illegal material and providing them with attractive alternatives.”

Last summer’s memorandum of understanding signed between labels, ISPs and government appeared to pave the way for new subscription music channels offered by ISPs but, though, Sky signed a deal with Universal, rollout has been slow. Lansman said the technology must be cheaper and Europe’s fragmented copyright framework must be simplified: “Many people don’t understand copyright, I don’t understand it.”

Sharkey, too, said he wants ISPs and labels to “partner in a solution”. He advocated a licensed P2P model: “The concept of embracing p2p should not seem as foreboding as it once did. 2009 should be the year the music industry stops worrying and learns to love the bomb.