BPI/Virgin Media letters cause kerfuffles

Following on from the announcement that Virgin Media were to start writing letters to customers of theirs identified by the BPI for apparently allowing their internet connection to be used for infringing file-sharing purposes (noted by the IPKat here), one of these letters might be due to arrive at the door of IT blogger Bill Thompson. Bill didn't appreciate this possibility very much, and wrote as such in a recent post about the issue, saying among other things:
"I believe it's a doomed enterprise, as the growth of a fast internet coupled with the ability to make perfect copies of digital content means that all of the assumptions that underpin film studios, TV broadcasters and record companies have been stripped away, leaving them flailing around, threatening and suing the people who should be their best customers and hoping to persuade politicians to pass new laws to give them special privileges online."

He did, however, acknowledge that the situation was changing:
"As more licensed download services become available, many offering songs without usage restrictions enforced by digital rights management technologies, the wholesale copying of unlicensed copies becomes a lot less defensible."
The BPI, in the form of their chief executive Geoff Taylor has now responded to this, concluding:
"We know our campaign with Virgin Media is not, in isolation, going to solve the problem of how creators can be fairly rewarded in a digital environment.

But this is a genuine step in the right direction, and represents a turning point in the music community's bid to restore value in music to its rightful owners: the artists and music companies who invest in their creative careers."
The IPKat, who is not taking either side in this, can understand both points of view, but cannot see how downloading (or making available) other people's copyright material such as music and films without payment can be realistically defended, when the law is quite clear on the matter. People such as Bill Thompson, and millions of others, are knowingly infringing copyright, and should not therefore be surprised or outraged when they are told that they should not be doing it. The IPKat doesn't know whether this really will be a turning point or perhaps instead the start of a long and bloody legal battle. Merpel is just glad that her internet connection is not provided by Virgin.
BPI/Virgin Media letters cause kerfuffles BPI/Virgin Media letters cause kerfuffles Reviewed by David Pearce on Monday, June 16, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. It is possible the law simply no longer is adequate, having been drafted in age where means of reproduction where costly and so in short supply and so easy to control. (The obvious retort here is "Well what would you change then?", and I'd concede solutions are not clear ;) - except that DRM isn't it).

    Civil enforcement activities (warning letters, etc..) have been shown to have an effect on file-sharing activity in the USA (I don't have a citation to hand though). However, there's an obvious PR own-goal, so it's a double-edged sword.

    There is talk of criminalising this activity, but I wonder how wise that would be. Hard to say what effect that would have in lieu of actual draft legislation, but it seems likely it could have a chilling effect on fair-dealing. Or Not?

    (I'd be interested to read more news here on that EU criminal-infringment directive..)

  2. Hi there. I haven't actually had a letter from the Virgin/BPI machine yet, and in fact I may not get one since I don't download music over p2p services, preferring to buy and rip CDs.

    Of course this is also illegal under UK law - and the law is quite clear on the matter - so perhaps I and the millions of other iPod users should face civil penalties.

    Or perhaps the law has been rendered foolish by the advances in technology, and the only way to make legislators look seriously at changing it is to push hard against current restrictions and be prepared to challenge the industry that hope to preserve its privileges against the tide of innovation.

    If I download a tv show or a movie it is because I have no other way to get it - make me an offer for a licensed download and I'll probably say yes.

    Oh - and don't assume your ISP won't fall into line too :-)

  3. Thanks Bill. Minor slip-up now corrected (reads a bit clunky, but never mind). Incidentally, the ability to rip CDs on to one's own iPod was one of the (very few) good recommendations from the Gowers report. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's going to happen.

  4. I can't believe that the BBC would employ a columnist who has now admitted to breaking the law. he should be sacked!


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