BPI to ask UK ISPs to compile database of illegal file-sharers

New scheme suggested by copyright holders has been met with hostility from ISPs.
  • @jjvincent

Internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK are being asked to compile a database of customers who illegally download music, films and books in order to make prosecuting these individuals easier.

Representatives from the media industry including the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) are set to discuss these schemes at a Downing Street breakfast on 12 September, the Guardian reports.

Virgin Media, TalkTalk, BT and BSkyB will be asked to participate in a voluntary letter writing scheme, informing households that their internet connections are being used to download illegal content. The focus of these letters would be first and foremost to educate customers.

However, it’s also been reported that various copyright holders including the BPI have suggested that this scheme might be expanded to create a database of repeat offenders.

These internet addresses (the ISPs are keen to stress that they only identify offending connections, not offending individuals) could then face sanctions, from throttling download speeds to suspending connections and eventually criminal prosecution.

The suggestion of a database though has been met with hostility from the telecoms, especially as it would be extremely difficult to make such a scheme compliant with the Data Protection Act. This act states that companies can only keep information about individuals when it is needed for a commercial purpose.

Emma Hutchinson, a Virgin Media spokesperson said: "Music and film companies are speaking to broadband providers about how to address illegal file-sharing but what they're currently proposing is unworkable."

TalkTalk have released a similar response, saying “We are involved in discussions about measures to address illegal file-sharing and ultimately would like to reach a voluntary agreement. However our customers' rights always come first and we would never agree to anything that could compromise them.”

Piracy in the UK

The latest reports on piracy in the UK from Ofcom found that the illegal downloading of music, film, TV, video games, software and books was on the rise in the UK.

The report, which was financed by the Intellectual Property Office, found that almost 400 million files were illegally downloaded in the first three months of 2013, a figure 16 per cent higher than the previous quarter.

This means that more than one in six internet users aged 12 and up in the UK have accessed pirated content online.

The most popular content by far is music, accounting for more than 280 million of the total of the 386 million files downloaded. Next most popular is TV shows (52m), followed by films (29m), ebooks (18m), and software and video games (7m).

The report showed that males were more likely to illegally download content than females (59 per cent male) and that 68 per cent of online pirates were less than 34 years old.