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BBC Writer & BPI Lock Horns Over Virginís Anti-Piracy Rules
By: MarkJ - 17 June, 2008 (8:49 AM)

BBC News Online columnist, Bill Thompson, has clashed (here) with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) over its recently announced Virgin Media agreement (news). Under the new deal, Virgin and the BPI will issue warning letters to any customers found to have downloaded illegal (copyright) music content.

However, Thompson feels that his own activity could lead to him being threatened by his ISP for doing something that he does not perceive as being criminal activity:

Bill Thompson comments: "The chances are that I'll be getting a letter from my internet service provider (ISP) in the next few weeks telling me that they've been watching my network activity closely and think I've been breaking the law.

Like almost every technically-competent internet user of my acquaintance I've used BitTorrent to get my hands on a copy of a TV show that I missed, taking advantage of the kindness of strangers who bothered to record and upload the shows for fans because the companies that make and broadcast them choose not to.

However I also go out and buy the DVD box sets as soon as I can. And I don't feel like a criminal, because I don't see why downloading a copy of a show that someone else has recorded should be seen as a breach of copyright while recording it myself onto a DVD is not
"

It's a sentiment that many could understand, although it is also impossible to know if an individual Internet user has already brought or intends to buy the same content at a future date via a different media (DVD etc.). Naturally the BPI has responded:

Bill Thompsonís critique of the new education campaign we have launched with Virgin Media was a good illustration of why such a campaign is needed: in drawing misleading analogies between illegal filesharing and taping programmes off the TV he shows that even ďexpertsĒ get it wrong sometimes.

Itís good that he recognises that the future for consumers, internet service providers (ISPs), and the music community is in developing even more new licensed download services. But itís naive at best to think licensed music services can prosper without action being taken against illegal downloading.

Letís be clear about this. We Ė the music business Ė do not want to see any customers have their broadband contract cancelled. And if the emails we have received thus far are anything to go by, most people will respond positively to our approach.

But we have to be realistic. Plenty of people are aware that what they are doing is unlawful. Some will note that their ISP is beginning to take the issue seriously and take the advice, but this wonít work for everyone.

Virgin Media's agreement with the BPI is currently just a trial, yet it is already being perceived as a test bed for a larger rollout to more UK ISPs further down the line. However, many providers have been angered by the BPI's initial strong-arm approach and some of their concerns can be seen in one of our recent articles - 'To Ban or Not to Ban (Illegal File Sharers)'.


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