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BPI hits File-Sharing Brits
July 11, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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For the last three years, the typical copyright enforcement policy relied almost entirely on suing individual file-sharers. The major entertainment representatives, such as the RIAA, IFPI, MPAA, and to a lesser extent, the BPI, have all used a similar strategy in their efforts to deter unauthorized file-sharing.

The effectiveness of this program has often been called into question. Setting aside the tit-for-tat research that each side uses to negate the other, the ubiquitous nature of file-sharing is difficult to ignore. Heavy hitters such as LimeWire, BitTorrent, and eDonkey2000 are a common part of the Internet language and are part of typical conversation when discussing media acquisition. Lawsuits are also, but such conversations are relegated to aversion rather than compliance. Many times, the existence of litigation against individual file-sharers is completely unknown.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has in response altered its once a month, across the continent, enmass lawsuit campaign. Instead, it has instituted a lighter and more locally focused campaign to give personal relevance to their efforts. The BPI (British Phonographic Industry) appears to have emulated this approach to some extent, as the trade representative has announced a new approach to their copyright enforcement campaign.

In a press statement released yesterday, the BPI announced their new approach to fighting unauthorized file-sharing. In this instance, the BPI sent written requests to the ISPs Tiscali and Cable & Wireless to suspend 17 and 42 Internet accounts respectively. The BPI suspects these 59 individuals have engaged in unauthorized file-sharing.

This approach, the BPI contends, is designed to place more of the responsibility of copyright enforcement on the ISPs. The BPI appears to have grown frustrated in the lack of effort on the part of the ISPs who it claims has turned a “blind eye” to piracy.

"We have demonstrated in the courts that unauthorized filesharing is against the law. We have said for months that it is unacceptable for ISPs to turn a blind eye to industrial-scale copyright infringement. We are providing Tiscali and Cable & Wireless with unequivocal evidence of copyright infringement via their services. It is now up to them to put their house in order and pull the plug on these people," BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson said.

So is this a radical shift in the BPI’s enforcement policy?

“Not so much a shift,” Matt Phillips, Communications Manager of the BPI told “We will still continue to bring cases against individual uploaders. This is more a development; it enables us to bring many more cases, and resolve them far more quickly and cost-effectively as we don't have to involve the courts.”

By attempting to decentralize the enforcement effort, the BPI stands to save considerable capital on the very time consuming and costly litigation process against individuals. “If the accounts are terminated, we have no plans to pursue cases against the individuals and therefore damages are not involved,” Matt Phillips said.

Like most of its previous enforcement cases, the BPI has the evidence it needs to financially pursue individuals - if it so choses. However a much cheaper alternative is to simply obligate the alleged individual’s ISP into the process.

“…We have evidence against IP addresses and are now inviting the ISPs concerned to identify them and enforce their own T&Cs,” Matt told Slyck. “While we would be at liberty to bring a case against the infringer we are not seeking to do that, therefore damages are not an issue. We are seeking to have the accounts of the file-sharers terminated without involving the courts for the reasons outlined…”

There’s distinct advantages to both strategies. Direct personal lawsuits have the effect of targeting in individual immediately, while suspending accounts is less time consuming and less costly. However Tiscali told the BBC: "We do not automatically suspend customer accounts on request, but on occasion do so pending investigation. We are reviewing the information the BPI has provided and will respond appropriately."

How long Tiscali, or any ISP for that matter, takes to complete an internal investigation may have considerable impact on the viability of this new strategy. In the ongoing war of attrition between the entertainment industry and file-sharers, time has its way of benefiting the latter.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Entertainment Industry :: Other
Legal/Courtroom :: Individual Lawsuits

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