Thursday, July 24, 2008

Three strikes, and you're, erm, waiting for a fourth: Deal disconnects BPI

The long spat between ISPs and the BPI is over, with a truce being signed that leaves the British Music Industry playing the Emperor Hirohito role: apparently remaining in power, but pretty roundly defeated.

The BPI had wanted ISPs to send letters giving three warnings to customers the music industry believed they had identified as sharing illegal files, and then cut them off.

Instead, the ISPs have agreed that, if the BPI tell them a customer is sharing copyrighted material without permission, they'll send them a letter. And, erm, that's it. No threat of disconnection, or indeed any legal consequences.

Given that the BPI claims that it only targets people who share a lot, and that those people are well aware what they're doing is wrong, it's effectively forced the ISPs to, erm, send people a letter which tells people nothing they don't know.

Oh, hang on, though: the ISPs have caved on one point:

The plan commits the firms to working towards a "significant reduction" in the illegal sharing of music.

It also commits the net firms to develop legal music services, the BBC has been told.

Oh! Go on then, we'll reluctantly sign up to create a business that might generate some new revenue streams for us, if we really must. Ooh, you've got us there.

Given how little the BPI have got, and at what cost - all that threatening of getting the government to do something, and mysterious legal injunctions, all that high profile insistence on 'three strikes and you're out' - you wonder if they could have done any worse in the negotiations. We're betting that the ISPs were just a few minutes away from getting the record labels to agree to pay them ten per cent of tshirt sales from merchandise stores at the gigs.

Given that this new set-up creates a world of tutting letters with no ultimate sanctions, it'll be interesting to see if the BPI bother to invest much of its members' time and money in putting the scheme into action. A wise approach would be to let the threat sit on the books, but not waste effort seeking out people to receive letters; but then the UK music industry has never been known for its wise approach.

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