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BPI forces ISP's to target law breaking customers


Posted At: 07 July 2008 13:29 PM
Related Categories: E-tailing, Future of Retailing, General


It was announced in the press last week that Virgin Media has teamed up with the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) to target illegal file sharers on their network. Around 800 letters were sent to customers who the BPI had identified as participating in illegal download activities warning them that they, well, shouldn’t be.

The BPI wants all UK Internet Service Providers to advocate a ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ policy, however so far only Virgin Media has agreed. I find this curious, to be honest; from the reviews I’ve been hearing, I’m not sure Virgin Media can afford to give customers another reason to go elsewhere or to discourage people from taking up their reportedly mediocre service further! And, really, people will choose to go elsewhere unless the BPI get full co-operation - something that doesn’t appear to be happening (Carphone Warehouse have refused to sign up already and BT have stated they already have their own similar policy so are not interested in aligning themselves with BPI).

In my opinion, this is just another instance of the recording industry blaming everybody but themselves for the state of the music retail market.
For many, many years record companies had a monopoly on the way we accessed music – options ranged from ‘pay £13.99 for that CD’ to ‘pay £13.99 for that CD’ – and now there are other ways to listen to our favourite artists they don’t know what the hell to do. Point is, illegal file sharing isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s been around for a good ten years now and the BPI really should have worked with the recording industry to respond to developments in technology and the shift in the way people access music much, much sooner.

While I wholeheartedly agree that illegal downloading does affect the music industry, it is entirely unfair of the media to paint such a ridiculously bleak picture. In reality, revenue is still higher than it was 10 years ago; other, equally vulnerable, industries have continued to grow since the advent of file sharing; and like it or not, there are many other, more influential factors aside from p2p which may have contributed to the decrease in music sales (both Zavvi and HMV in the UK have recently posted healthy trading results due to increased spending in their DVD and gaming sectors, for example)

The BPI does, and will always, work for the recording industry. It is not interested in consumers or any other industries, and I truly believe that ISP’s are just the next victim the BPI have chosen to take the brunt for something which is essentially their fault. Loss of revenue from illegal filesharing will only be stopped by a lot of time and effort being invested by them, no one else, and so how on earth they have the cheek to launch a campaign like this right now - when they’ve openly admitted that their current mechanisms for selling music online are inadequate - is beyond me. Studies report a willingness amongst illegal p2p users to use legal services if they are improved, so why not offer a viable alternative to illegal downloading before having a childlike tantrum and blatantly forcing ISP’s into threatening their own customers. Step up, take responsibility and sort out your own problems, BPI, your failings created the problem, only you can remedy it!

8th July 2008 edit: For further reading about the propsed European Anti-Piracy laws mentioned above and more on what the opposition has been saying, see this interesting article by the BBC:

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