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Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 16:17 UK
Online crackdown: what you need to know
By Jim Reed
Technology reporter, Radio 1

Music download website
Letters are being sent out to thousands of people suspected of illegally sharing music

Sharing music illegally on the internet is being stamped out and warnings are being sent to anyone suspected of swapping tracks without paying for them. Here's Newsbeat's guide to the music industry's plan.

WHAT IS FILESHARING?
Peer-to-peer, or P2P, networks allow users to swap data files over the internet, but one of the most popular is a network called BitTorrent.

Users download a small software application that lets you swap mp3 or video files between millions different computers around the world.

Hundreds of websites publish links that point users to the "torrent" - or information stream - they need to find the music.

As one user is downloading part of a track, album or video, they are simultaneously uploading another part to other "peers".

Another popular download programme, LimeWire, works in a similar way but uses the Gnutella file sharing network.

The Windows version of LimeWire has already been downloaded more than 150 million times.

HOW WIDESPREAD IS FILESHARING IN THIS WAY?

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) which represents record companies, reckons that 6 million internet accounts in the UK are used to swap tracks.

Research for another record industry association, British Music Rights, found that 63% of all 14-24 year-olds surveyed, used P2P file sharing networks.

WHAT IS THE PLAN NOW?

The BPI has done a deal with the six biggest broadband companies in the UK to send warning letters to users it suspects are using networks like BitTorrent to swap copyright tracks without permission.

WHICH BROADBAND COMPANIES ARE INVOLVED?

At the moment, it's the six biggest: BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse. But it's likely that other broadband companies will join in soon.

HOW DO THEY KNOW WHAT I HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT ONLINE?

All broadband companies are relying on the word of the BPI.

A team from the organisation tracks the use of file sharing networks and collects the individual internet (or IP) address of anyone it sees swapping a track.

That number does not give away any personal details about the user but it does tell the BPI what broadband network the user is on.

The BPI sends that information to the internet provider who can then identify the user.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The customer is sent two warning letters, one from the internet provider and another from the BPI.

The letters make it clear that file-sharing can be illegal and give tips on internet security.

But copies seen by Newsbeat make it clear that, if the users gets caught out again, they could face legal action.

WHO ELSE KNOWS ABOUT THESE LETTERS?

In theory the BPI will only record the IP address of the internet accounts used to share files and cannot know the identity of individual users.

Broadband companies say they will refuse to share information about their customers with the BPI.

But some people think it might be possible for the BPI to force broadband companies to reveal this information with a court order.

WHAT IF CUSTOMERS IGNORE THE LETTER?

This is where we get into new territory.

The music industry are keen for broadband companies to suspend or cut off internet users that continue to use file sharing networks after being warned.

But many broadband companies say it's not their job to act as "internet policeman".

Both side say they will now work together on a way to deal with hard-core offenders.

SEE ALSO
Net firms in music pirates deal
Thursday, 24 July 2008, 09:37 GMT |  Technology
Net firms reject monitoring role
Friday, 15 February 2008, 13:22 GMT |  Technology
Illegal downloaders 'face UK ban'
Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 20:25 GMT |  Business

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