It looks like the carte blanche crackdown we feared on P2P file sharing is gathering momentum...
News is breaking today that six of the country's largest ISPs have agreed to deals with the BPI to monitor and warn customers about the illegal file sharing of copyright materials. BSkyB, BT Retail, Carphone Warehouse, Orange, Tiscali and the ever willing Virgin Media are the providers in question and between them they represent approximately 90 per cent of all UK broadband connections so this is most certainly a sea change. The Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) and BERR are also aboard creating a truly unholy and intimidating alliance.
Under the new agreement signatories are committed to development consumer education programmes and developing legal online services but - in the words of the BPI: "Most importantly, for the first time ISPs will be required to work with music and other rightsholders (sic) towards a 'significant reduction' in illegal filesharing (sic)."
“This MOU represents a significant step forward, in that all ISPs now recognise their responsibility to help deal with illegal filesharing," said BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor. "Government has played an important role in bringing all parties together to arrive at this point, but the work really begins now. We look forward to creating the procedures necessary to effectively tackle repeated unlawful filesharing with the other signatories and Ofcom."
Over the next year hundreds of thousands of warning letters are now expected to be received by customers suspected of file sharing by these ISPs. No definitive agreement is yet in place regarding the eventual punishments for persistent offenders but the BPI is known to favour a 'three strikes' policy that ultimately sees users' broadband connections cancelled - something of which ISPs must be fearful.
Ok, voice of reason for a moment. We're in chicken and the egg territory here, ie: if the record industry would stop squabbling amongst itself long enough to come up with a compelling alternative to file sharing (a flat rate, cross record label subscription service is currently the best bet) then it would be able to move from a position of strength not hypocrisy since it has arguably been exploiting customers for years.
Secondly, persistent file sharers will simply move to ISPs not involved with the BPI (expect Be Unlimited/O2 to get sizeable boosts) and new ISPs will always resist membership as long as possible to attain customers. Lastly, the insecure nature of WiFi, modem cloning and shared connections in general (let alone the fact most of us are on dynamic IP addresses) means the prosecution system is highly unlikely to be perfect 100 per cent of the time,and it'll only take a few high profile cases to see public credibility come crashing down.
Either way though hold onto your seats people, this is likely to be one heck of a bumpy ride...