Page last updated at 15:01 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 16:01 UK

Squeeze file-sharers, stars say

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Lily Allen
Lily Allen has led an artists' campaign for a crackdown on file-sharing

Pop star Lily Allen has joined almost 100 other British musicians at a heated three-hour debate to discuss how to tackle illegal music downloading.

The meeting was called after a public dispute among artists over whether serial file-sharers should be punished.

The attendees agreed perpetrators should not have their internet accounts suspended, as ministers have suggested.

Instead, they released a statement saying persistent offenders should have their bandwidths "squeezed".

Artists including Allen, George Michael, Annie Lennox, Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason signed the statement.

Warning letters

The meeting in London on Thursday was open to all artists. Those present backed Allen's campaign to "alert music lovers to the threat that illegal downloading presents to our industry", the statement said.

They also "overwhelmingly voted" to support a plan to send two warning letters to file-sharers before restricting their broadband speeds.

Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien
In the meeting, we didn't always agree but we came to an agreement that we thought was good for everyone
Ed O'Brien

That would "render sharing of media files impractical while leaving basic e-mail and web access functional", the statement said.

Jim Killock, executive director of digital rights activists the Open Rights Group said the musicians had addressed "the symptom and not the cure".

He said the only answer was "to licence products to compete with file-sharing", but that major labels were being too cautious in approving new services.

The ISPA, which represents the UK's internet service providers, agreed that the disconnection of users was "a disproportionate response".

A spokesman added that they will submit their views to the government on the proposed new law before Tuesday.

Film composer David Arnold, songwriter Guy Chambers, Billy Bragg, singer Patrick Wolf, sixties star Sandie Shaw and Keane's Tim Rice-Oxley were among others to put their names to the plan.

Before the meeting, a debate over whether to penalise file-sharers had raged among artists in the media and online.

Allen led the campaign for a crackdown, while lobby group the Featured Artists' Coalition, including musicians like O'Brien and Mason, said cutting off broadband accounts would be impractical and counter-productive.

But the need for artists to reach a compromise and present a united front was considered pressing just five days before a UK government deadline for receiving views on proposed sanctions.

Lily cheered

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has said people who share files illegally should have their connections temporarily suspended as a "last resort".

O'Brien said the artists' meeting was "quite emotional" and "a little heated at times".

Allen had said she would not go, and has removed an anti-file-sharing blog after just three days because she said she was getting too much abuse.

She has come in for criticism after reproducing a blog post without crediting its source and for using copyrighted music in two mixtapes when she started her career.

Until recently, both tapes were still available to be downloaded.

But the singer was cheered as she entered the room at Air Studios in Hampstead, north London, and spoke several times.

She was "extremely brave" to turn up, O'Brien told BBC News.

"She's taken a lot of flak for what she's said. What she's done has been brilliant because she started the process where artists have stood up and said, you know what, there is a consequence to illegal file-sharing.

"In the meeting, we didn't always agree but we came to an agreement that we thought was good for everyone.

"We're going to have further meetings like this, we're going to get together - we've realised the importance of doing this together," he said.

Media were not admitted into the meeting and Allen has declined to be interviewed about the subject.

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