Page last updated at 08:52 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

UK will not legislate on piracy

David Lammy, IP Minister
David Lammy does not want to be heavy-handed with teenagers

The UK's Intellectual Property minister David Lammy has said the government will not force internet service providers to pursue file sharers.

There had been mounting speculation about government legislation on the issue as the music industry steps up its fight against the pirates.

Other countries, such as France, have supported tough action on file-sharers, who the industry claims cost them dear.

But Mr Lammy said legislation would be too complex.

"We can't have a system where we're talking about arresting teenagers in their bedrooms," he told The Times newspaper.

Talk of the government forcing internet service providers to evict file-sharers from their networks grew last year as the British Phonographic Industry adopted a tougher stance.

The BPI, which represents the UK music industry, favours a "three strikes" policy, where file-sharers offenders are initially sent warning letters. Persistent offenders could be thrown off the network.

True potential

Feargal Sharkey
Feargal Sharkey thinks file-sharers would be prepared to pay

While some ISPs, most notably Virgin Media, sent out initial warning letters, the rest of the BPI policy has yet to be firmed up.

According to analyst firm Forrester, a fifth of Europeans use file-sharing networks. Paid-for digital music services such as iTunes are used by just 10% and make up just 8% of overall music revenue.

Feargal Sharkey, ex-pop star and now head of the pan-industry body UK Music, has said that he believes 80% of file-sharers would be prepared to pay for a legitimate file-sharing service.

The challenge for the UK music industry was to find a way to "unlock the true potential of digital music", he said at an industry talking shop at the beginning of the year.

Some experts predict that Lord Carter's report on the state of Digital Britain, expected at the end of the month, to make recommendations about how to crack down on file-sharers without legislation.

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