Music industry demands the right to sue ISPs

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The music industry is to lobby for a change in the law that would allow it to sue internet service providers, in an attempt to stop illegal file sharing of music tracks on the Web.

A coalition of some of the sector's leading trade organisations, including the royalty collection society the MCPS-PRS Alliance, the Musicians' Union and Association of Independent Music (AIM), unveiled the proposal yesterday.

It would involve a change in the law that would allow the industry to license its music to internet service providers (ISPs) for distribution through Peer 2 Peer (P2P) networks online.

Currently, while the sector has prosecuted individuals for illegal file swapping, the law makes the ISPs immune from being held responsible for the actions of their customers.

Emma Pike, the chairman and chief executive of AIM, said: "There is a missing link in the distribution chain. We want to legitimise P2P file-sharing, which can only be controlled by ISPs."

The industry will submit its proposal to the government-commissioned review of intellectual copyright law being undertaken by Andrew Gowers, the former Financial Times editor.

Ms Pike said the industry did not want to try to crush P2P but bring it into the fold of copyright law. Under the plan, music would be licensed to the ISPs. It is estimated that 80 per cent of internet music downloads are not paid for in the UK, costing the industry hundreds of millions of pounds.