Much virtual ink has been spent discussing the latest attempt to shift liability for illegal file-sharing back to the intermediaries. UK ISPs are said to be in negotiation with the British Phonographic Industry in order to turn them into enforcers. ISPs are supposed to disconnect illegal file-sharers after other disciplinary action has been taken. No ISP had spoken against such action, but last week, the chief of Carphone Warehouse has come out and attacked the plans as the unworkable mess that they are. He said that "I cannot foresee any circumstances in which we would voluntarily disconnect a customer's account on the basis of a third party alleging a wrongdoing." a brave position in my opinion. I have already said that turning ISPs into an enforcer of IP rights cannot be done, and disconnecting an entire family's internet service for the sins of one member seems rather extreme. Just wait for the first news item recounting Little Ian's trouble with his homework because of the Big Bad Music Industry, and you will see just how this plan is doomed.
However, things could get messy for Carphone Warehouse. The BPI has called their response "irresponsible", and according to the Daily Telegraph, the BPI has threatened them with legal action if they do not comply. Apparently, they sent a fax which says:
"... unless we receive your agreement in writing that within 14 days Carphone Warehouse will implement procedures set out above, we reserve our right to apply to court for injunctions and other relief without further notice to protect our members' rights."This is clearly where the music industry's strategy lies. It has been trying to get agreements of enforcement from ISPs, but the underlying threat has always been legal action. Comply or else.
I hope that the Carphone Warehouse sticks to its guns. For starters, we may get a clear ruling defining ISP liability once and for all. I would also believe that Carphone Warehouse has a good chance of winning the case, which would be more problematic for the music industry than it is for the ISPs. If they fail in this tactic, what will they try next?
Anyway, the BPI are barking up the wrong tree. New research clearly indicates that the problem of sharing music is not an online problem, it is people sharing music with their friends, just as it has always been. We haven't really moved much from the good old days of the mix tape it seems. And then we get Feargal Sharkey telling us that unless this is stopped, musicians will stop making music. Somehow, I do not think so.