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Is ISPA on the side of the file-sharers when it comes to IP and copyright? A close reading of the 11th Annual UK Internet Industry Awards – dished out yesterday evening - suggests that they might not be as hostile as some other trade bodies.

Last night, Vulture Central hacks toddled along to Grosvenor Square to sit through 14 assorted awards – as well as a very nice dinner - celebrating the "great and the good of the UK internet industry". The evening opened with a short speech from Jim Gamble, Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP) – the lead police organisation when it comes to combating online abuse of children.

He had no award to hand out, but expressed the view that if he had, he would give it to Virgin Media, for the support they give to CEOP’s work by not passing on any costs they incur in assisting CEOP with their investigations. This is a slightly controversial point of view, not shared by all ISP’s, and attracted a solitary heckle from the floor. Mr Gamble was otherwise warmly welcomed by the massed ranks of ISP’s.

On then to the awards, which included categories as varied as "Best Consumer Fixed Broadband" (O2), "Best Streaming" (Astream) and the "Corporate Social Responsibility Award" (UKFast).

The evening’s pièce de resistance – or possible pièces de resistance – arrived with awards for the internet Hero and internet Villain of the past twelve months. These went respectively to the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), for their work in "recognising publicly that the focus of music companies should be the development of new business models for distributing content online", and to Stephen Conroy and the Australian Government for "continuing to promote network-level blocking despite significant national and international opposition".

Unsurprisingly, no-one turned up to collect the internet Villain award, which we presume is now on a boat slowly wending its way southward.

Collecting the Internet Hero award on behalf of Featured Artists Coalition, Billy Bragg urged greater co-operation between the music and internet industries.

FAC Chairman and Blur drummer Dave Rowntree added: "I hope this shows that artists are willing to talk with ISPs about the challenges of adapting music industry business models to the digital age. We have to work together – the status quo is not good enough."

So is ISPA going soft on file-sharing? Of the 9 nominations in the Hero/Villain categories, one nomination for villainy went to France’s President Nikolas Sarkozy, for his role in promoting draconian sanctions in respect of internet piracy (the "loi Hadopi"). Two nominations for heroism went to organisations resisting such measures (the European Parliament was also nominated for "opposing the disconnection of users for alleged copyright infringement without judicial oversight").

A spokesman for ISPA confirmed that they do not condone unlawful file sharing. However, he said: "We feel that disconnection and technical sanctions are disproportionate. We are very much in favour of working toward a better position than the present through the more pragmatic approaches that the FAC have come out with.

"We want to change the focus away from music companies calling for people to be cut from the internet." ®

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