U.K. Laws Could Target ISPs Over File-Sharing

Britain will impose legislation on ISPs by April 2009 if they do not work with the music and film industries to curb illegal downloading, the government said on Friday.

The government released a strategy paper to address the problem of illegal file sharing after the two sides failed to come to a voluntary agreement over how best to tackle the issue.

[cob:Related_Articles]The paper said the government would still prefer a voluntary solution, but said it would start consulting on possible legislation later this year.

The move follows a decision by the French government to ban access to the Internet for those who repeatedly download material illegally, and follows years of lobbying by the music industry which has been damaged by piracy.

Industry estimates put the number of broadband users in Britain who download files illegally at around 6 million.

“Within the space of only four months, two governments, in France and Britain, have now embraced the simple idea that Internet service providers are uniquely positioned to help in the fight against digital piracy,” John Kennedy, the head of the international music trade body IFPI, said. “This is a sea change in attitude.”

The ISPs would prefer a voluntary agreement and argue that as mere conduits, it is not their place to police the Internet.

But the government has been moved to act to give a boost to the country’s creative industries. Global music sales were down around 10 percent in 2007 and the industry estimates that tens of billions of illegal tracks were swapped online in the year.

Britain’s leading Internet service providers include BT, Virgin Media, Carphone Warehouse, Tiscali, BSkyB and Orange.

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