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BPI Rejects Piracy Threat Letters and Slams Large Profit Making UK ISPs

Posted: 29th Jan, 2010 By: MarkJ
copyright pirateThe British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has criticised solicitor firm ACS:Law for sending threatening letters to customers of UK broadband ISPs whom are "suspected" of involvement with illegal piracy downloading. Those targeted are frightened into paying a settlement fee (£300-£500) or warned that they could face legal action.

Consumer groups, the ISPA and politicians have also criticised ACS:Law for using unreliable data that has been known to trap innocent individuals and is seen as a purely profit making move (here). Ironically it is still a common tactic used by Rights Holders to scare consumers away from piracy.

General BPI Statement:

"We don't favour the approach taken by ACS:Law to tackling illegal filesharing, which is at odds with the proportionate and graduated response advocated by BPI and proposed in the Digital Economy Bill. We uphold the highest standards of evidence, and our view is that legal action is best reserved for the most persistent or serious offenders - rather than widely used as a first response."

Sadly the words "don't favour" are not the same as "don't use" and as usual there is another agenda at work. The fact is that sending letters like this is deeply unpopular, has been known to use inaccurate data and taking additional legal action against thousands of people is an administrative nightmare, not to mention the heavy costs involved.

The BPI also hit out at ISPs again for allegedly exaggerating the cost of tackling piracy, which it claimed were "perfectly at liberty to absorb the costs out of their large profits". Rights Holders would of course much rather ISPs paid to tackle the problem, even though this would all be based on the same method of unreliable IP data tracking as used by ACS:Law.


The BPI's CEO, Geoff Taylor, commented:

"Let’s not forget that there is no obligation whatsoever on ISPs to pass any of these costs onto their subscribers. They are perfectly at liberty to absorb the costs out of their large profits, or to pass on the costs of notifications to the account holders whose accounts are used illegally."

Large profits? Many of the largest providers, such as TalkTalk and Sky Broadband UK, have spent most of their life subsidising broadband services because of the high costs involved. Meanwhile smaller providers are unable to keep up and have to sacrifice profits just to stay competitive.

Suffice to say that the profit margin per connection, as anybody familiar with the market could tell you, is tiny. Internet access is not a rich industry and most quarterly financial reports make that clear. The music industry claims that the cost of tackling piracy will be small, while both official government and ISP figures suggest completely the opposite (here).
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