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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 10:56 GMT
BT accused over music piracy

By Jane Wakefield
BBC News Online technology staff

The record industry has accused BT of not doing enough to tackle illegal music file-sharing over the internet.

Music industry says file-swapping is damaging CD sales
The British Phonographic Industry said the telecoms giant had been reluctant to discuss the issue of online piracy, despite repeated attempts by its anti-piracy division to get BT to discuss peer-to-peer file-swapping.

BT denies it is supporting illegal services, pointing out that peer-to-peer technology is not illegal.

The record industry blames illegal music sharing for contributing to a fall in sales.

Legitimate service

Peer-to-peer services, which allow surfers to swap files between computers without having to go through a central server, are widely used to share music.

Peer-to-peer is a technology and it isn't inherently illegal
Duncan Ingram, BT Openworld
The record industry is determined to put an end to the free trading of music online but says that BT is not helping matters.

"BT is the biggest service provider in terms of peer-to-peer traffic but getting them to discuss the issues is like pulling teeth," said Jollyon Benn of the BPI's anti-piracy unit.

"It will be a red letter day when they talk to us," he added.

"BT is trying to create business links with the music industry at the same time as being completely intransigent to the issues of piracy," he said.

BT has recently launched an online service through Dotmusic, offering users unlimited downloads from a catalogue of 150,000 music tracks for a monthly fee of 9.99.

BT is also the largest user of peer-to-peer bandwidth, although all other ISPs also allow users access to such services.

Other ISPs such as ntl have attended BPI meetings and have taken action to deal with peer-to-peer services, largely because they are having problems supporting the massive bandwidth being used by such networks.

'Not our role'

The move by ntl to cap the amount of bandwidth subscribers can use has proved massively unpopular and BT has no plans to go down the same route.

"In terms of capping downloads we have no current plans to do that. We are managing our network very well," said Managing Director of BT Openworld, Duncan Ingram.

He also denied that BT has been hypocritical in its support of both legitimate and illegal music downloads.

"We aren't supporting an illegal market," he said.

"Peer-to-peer is a technology and it isn't inherently illegal. Where do you draw the line about what is legal and what isn't? That is a range of responsibility that we are not equipped to deal with," he said

He added that technically it was not easy to control peer-to-peer services.

"We don't monitor every packet that comes through our network and the services can appear elsewhere," he said.

BT said it was in regular contact with the BPI and Mr Ingram promised to contact them to talk about the issues raised by peer-to-peer technology.

However, he pointed out that without good quality legal alternatives, people were bound to be attracted to the services offered by file-sharing networks.

"That is why we have launched Dotmusic, which offers a reasonably priced legitimate alternative for people," he said.

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