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Film industry turns up P2P heat on Carter

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Updated The UK film industry today backed the record industry's long-running campaign for laws to force ISPs to cut off persistent illegal filesharers from the internet.

At a conference in London today, a coalition including Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the UK film sector's copyright enforcement body, will aim to put pressure on the communications minister, Lord Carter. FACT will add to lobbying by its record industry counterpart the BPI for the government to impose French-style "graduated response" regulations on ISP, that end in disconnection if warnings are ignored.

The statement marks a toughening of the UK film business line on illegal filesharing. When The Register visited FACT's west London HQ in the summer of 2007, its enforcement chief said he didn't believe disconnecting users from the internet would be a proportionate response.

Today's intervention is timed as Carter finalises the Digital Britain report, due to be published in June. The report will set out final proposals to reduce copyright infringement via peer to peer networks.

The interim report, published in January, suggested a "Rights Agency" as a mediator between ISPs and copyright holders. This would allow them to share information and warn infringers, while stopping short of disconnection.

John Woodward, head of the UK Film Council, also part of the coalition making today's call, said at the conference that 800,000 jobs in the film, TV and recording industries were threatened by illegal peer to peer. His claim was backed by trade unions for workers in the creative industries.

In response, internet trade association ISPA, reiterated its view that copyright holders should focus on simplifying rules so peer to peer filesharing can be licensed and charged for.

"ISPA recognises that there is a problem with unlawful P2P file sharing, but it is important to recognise that a major part of the solution lies in licensing reform and the availability of legal content online," said secretary-general Nicolas Lansman.

"ISPA remains committed to working with the government and the creative industries to find a solution which balances the needs of all parties and is fair for consumers."

Talks to offer legal music sharing to Virgin Media subscribers via what would have been a groundbreaking joint venture between an ISP and the record industry broke down recently over licensing complications.

Despite copyright holders' intensified campaign for disconnection as a final enforcement measure, a move by the UK government to enforce such a regime on ISPs may face a block at European level. MEPs recently voted that cutting off internet access would require judicial approval - a condition that would make such sanctions against illegal filesharing impossible due to bureaucratic overheads. ®

Update

Following publication of this article, FACT got in touch to say that disconnections are not a policy priority. Instead it envisages education campaigns and "a range of technical measures" against persistent illegal filesharers. They could include bandwidth throttling or restrictions on particular protocols such as BitTorrent, a spokesman said.

He added that disconnection is not currently ruled out however.

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