UK ISPs Move Down The Slippery Slope Of Becoming Copyright Cops

from the slippery-slopes dept

Some UK politicians have been pushing to get ISPs to play the role of copyright cops for an unclear reason. It appears they’ve bought into the misleading and incorrect claim by the music industry that somehow ISPs are responsible for the record labels own failure to adapt its business model. So despite claims from some ISPs that wouldn’t sign up for such a plan, and wouldn’t kick users off the internet, a bunch of those UK ISPs are now promising to play the role of copyright cops anyway — and this even includes the ISPs who insisted they wouldn’t go down this road.

It’s unclear why exactly they are agreeing to voluntarily waste their time acting on behalf of an obsolete industry’s business model, but the misguided threats from UK politicians probably helped move things along. Either way, this starts things down the incredibly slippery slope of making ISPs responsible for policing the actions of users. For years, most governments have realized what a bad idea this is, but suddenly in many countries that concept is falling away, and the end results will not be positive for the internet — as plenty of perfectly legitimate activities are about to get blocked in an overzealous effort to prop up a few obsolete business models.

Already there are rumors spreading that there is behind-the-scenes maneuvering for the next big step to occur: making all internet users pay an annual “music tax” fee. The original article on this agreement has someone from BPI denying that such a tax is under discussion, but some UK politicians seem ready to introduce it anyway — and folks like Billy Bragg’s manager, Peter Jenner, are claiming victory. And even a music person industry admits that this is a slippery slope (though, he thinks it’s in the right direction), saying that this is: “a first step, and a very big step, in what we all acknowledge is going to be quite a long process.”

The BPI representative backs this up by noting that his goal isn’t to take steps towards ending file sharing, but to end it altogether: “There is not an acceptable level of file-sharing. Musicians need to be paid like everyone else.” As for the artists who benefit from unauthorized file sharing? That doesn’t seem to occur to the BPI. And, if musicians really need to “be paid like everyone else,” how come the rest of us don’t get paid for the work we did 50 years ago? How come if everyone else picks a business model that the market rejects, we don’t get all the other companies in the value chain and the government to artificially prop up that business model for us? You know, we work pretty hard here at Techdirt to make a living, but apparently “everyone else” just complains that their business model isn’t working and has ISPs take care of it for them. Can we now get UK ISPs to send “warning” letters to everyone who reads Techdirt to start telling them they should send us money? That would be a much easier business model.

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Comments on “UK ISPs Move Down The Slippery Slope Of Becoming Copyright Cops”

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PaulT (profile) says:

I’ve said all I need to say on this subject before. Namely, it’s an incredible bad move, thanks f**k I don’t live in the UK any more and I hope the rest of Europe doesn’t follow suit.

If anyone can answer the questions I always ask in these situations, I’d be most grateful though. First, about the “music tax”:

1. If I download a Public Enemy track, how can I be sure that the money will go to Public Enemy and not Britney?

2. What about people who don’t download music?

3. What about businesses that sell downloads for ale – surely iTunes won’t so any business in a country where P2P is effectively legal?

Then, about the “3 strikes”:

1. What comeback do you have if you’re falsely accused, e.g. recent cases where a laser printer was accused of downloading music?

2. What about legally downloaded music? e.g. if the album I downloaded turns out to be Nine Inch Nails’ The Slip, which is legally available for free?

Woadan says:

That music tax might be the only way musicians like Billy Bragg will ever see a penny for their music. I can say quite unequivocally that any charity I might have had for him or those of his ilk has completely vanished and I will specifically not be buying any of his music.

Perhaps we need to organize a day without music. No iPods, no radio, no CD players, no Pandora, no satellite, nothing. Send a clear signal that the musicians have to work like the rest of us.


Brian says:

Everyone Write Some Music

The real solution to this problem is to take advantage of low cost recording equipment and the low barrier to entry to publish your music on the internet. When everyone is an artist, they can just cut themselves a check for the amount of a “music tax”.

Then, the recording industry’s arguments will devolve into which musician is more “legitimate”. These arguments, if you can find one on your favorite music blog/forum, are always a hoot!

claire rand says:


the reason the BPI want this is pretty simple, the courts want this tedious little thing called ‘evidence’, civil case so not beyond reasonable doubt but they have to have a bit more than juts the IP & time, and they can’t generally get more without admitting *they* have broken the law.

also in the UK they can only sue for losses, not additional punishment damages, so these cases are not ‘profitable’ even if they win, it would also require them to provide evidence of the losses, which requires proof of profits made on downloads*

so they want to stear clear of anything requiring a court to be involved.

the ISPs may use this as an excuse to kick a few high users off, but this won’t be a huge deal in and of itself.

the worrying bit is the next step to make ‘phorm’ etc mandatory to ‘monitor compliance’

mind you I’ve never know a goverment like ours for providing such boosts to the encryption industry.

* note this is probably something they don’t want to come out, a high percentage profile the artists will want some, a low percentage = low damages, plus they will need to show *how many times* a file was uploaded to calculate the damages, which will be small, if you assume 80p per track, and they can prove the person uploaded 10% of the file, thats 8p. they uploaded 1,000 10% ‘chunks” they get £8 wow.

plus costs of course, but they have to be reasonable.

and they still have to proove the person concerned ‘did it’

there is a reason such cases are very rare in the UK.

the guv will be eyeing up the chances to impose a ‘copyright infringment prevention fund fee’ on all BB connections, something like the telly tax, i’m sure they’ll give *some* of it to the industry as well, probably about the same percentage as the artists see of the download price if they have any sense.

Brad Bell (user link) says:

It’s begun to bother me that we still talk like ‘professionals’ make all the content and users “pirate” it. That may still be happening, but users today are also supplanting the professional content. Some of the best, most authentic and original music I’ve heard has been stuff people made in their bedrooms. (Ex. A Fist Full, by Catgut is probably the best song I’ve heard in a year. Sad, beautiful, depressing; the production is all satin and razor blades. From the Marvin Suicide Show via

And then I flip on the TV and see professional pop musicians who all seemed to go to some British pop musician school for aspiring celebrities, striving for authenticity and never really quite getting there. They always seem a bit over-produced. Corporate. Co-branded. Co-opted.

Creative Commons search, and, and Wikipedia, and Wikipedia Commons, and Flickr and all the other file sharing sites, and Vimeo and all the other video sharing sites, and WordPress, and Google Maps and mashups and so on allow people to share their own stuff in ways that are surprising everyone. It’s sharing that depends on network effects.

Increasingly, I see the internet spawning a culture where people share their photos and music and other work, for free, because there really isn’t a business model for them to get paid. They do it for love. And maybe a bit of self-promotion. Or as donationware. Or because it’s easier than not sharing. And they use Creative Commons licenses, so everyone else is encouraged to share.

We end up with a culture where everyone is sharing *except* the music companies because it’s a digital world and they are in an analog business. And they want to change the rules, and have a discussion which suggests we lived in an analog world full of free-riders.

Anonymous Coward says:

BPI are once again relatively moronic

So, the BPI afe deciding that the ISP should police the Internet. What a surprise.

Also, note that NIN and Radiohead are making some semblance of money now that they record for themselves (and their fans).

The fact that this will be just another tax on the highest-taxed nation in the world is just gravy, apparently. We would now be paying for more MP’s overblown expenses.

OH well. I think the pirates are back. And it’s not at the user’s end.

James says:

Record labels

The music industry has had it easy for so long. The only way for artists to make in the past it was via them. For that, they ‘stole’ most of the cash and passed a token on to the artist. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have a problem paying so much to the record label.

Lots of traditional businesses have been rendered obsolete over the course of time. Now the record industry is staring down the barrel. Good riddence……let the artists get what they deserve and to hell with the middleman.

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