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The Government's Digital Britain plan is a failure that gives favourable treatment to the music business and props up failed business models, a software trade body has said.

The Federation Against Software Theft and Investors in Software (FAST IiS), which promotes the legitimate use of software, has launched a stinging attack on the Digital Britain report and on the way the music industry has approached the threat of digital piracy.

“The entertainment sector appear to have lobbied the Government to consider establishing a ‘pirates tax’ on all of us as well as yet another quango to oversee it, meaning more cost, and more hassle," said FAST IiS chief executive John Lovelock.

FAST IiS said that the Government should protect all digital industries equally, and not give special treatment to one.

"FAST IiS is urging the Government to commit itself to ‘joined-up’ government and consider all forms of digital content when investigating changing the law and legal approach to digital content theft," said a statement from the organisation.

"FAST IiS contend that the Government’s interim ‘Digital Britain’ report investigating the state of the digital economy has failed to approach the issue of intellectual property rights in a coherent way; and until the government works with all the digital content providers representative bodies any attempts to legislate in favour of any one particular sector is not only unfair but also seriously misguided," it said.

The Digital Britain report said that the Government would pass laws forcing internet service providers (ISPs) to gather information about record label-identified illegal file-sharers and to pass on that information under court order.

It also said that ISPs will be forced to notify illegal file-sharers that their conduct is against the law. The plans stopped short of a demand that ISPs disconnect offending users.

"All digital content is equal before the law and so too should be all digital industries. A piecemeal approach will confuse digital consumers, both the public and businesses, will muddy the legal framework and will therefore ultimately impede Britain’s success in the new digital economy of the twenty-first century," said Lovelock.

“Put bluntly we all need this sector to be working effectively and fairly. Favouritism is not going to help ailing business methods, and making all consumers face a ‘broadband tax’ to cover the few that steal content smacks of cynical revenue protection,” said Lovelock.

The Digital Britain report proposed a new rights agency to work to protect copyrighted content, and suggested that it be funded by industry. This has led some commentators to conclude that a 'tax' will be levied on broadband connections.

FAST IiS said that its industry had changed the way it conducted its business to deal with the challenges of piracy and that the entertainment industries should do the same.

"Over the past decade the software industry has evolved to become more user focused and ever more adaptable to changing market conditions. The right to use software, that is to say licensing, has evolved from ‘single instance’, ‘per user’ and ‘site’ licences to encompass Application Service Provision, Software-as-a-Service, Pay-As-You-Go and so on," said Lovelock.

"I think it’s time that [the entertainment] industries came up to speed in the modern market and changed their business models to encourage their customers to use the internet for their purchasing," he said.

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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