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Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 17:24 UK
Crackdown on illegal file-sharing

By Dan Whitworth
Newsbeat technology reporter

MP3 player
People who illegally download music could be sent warning letters

Whether it's a new number one single or the latest film out at the cinema, look hard enough online and you'll be able to find a copy to illegally download for free.

One of the biggest challenges that Digital Britain had to look at was how to try to stop that from happening.

The music, film and TV industry says it's losing tens of millions of pounds in the UK alone every year to internet piracy.

They want internet service providers, or ISPs, to be much stronger with persistent offenders and if necessary cut off their broadband.

ISPs, meanwhile, have consistently argued it's not their job to police the internet and that cutting off customers isn't good for business.

For the last few years the government's played piggy in the middle although it has leaned away from cutting people off wanting to avoid "criminalising 15-year-olds downloading songs in their bedrooms".

Warning letters

Now though, Digital Britain has come up with some practical recommendations on how to stem the flow of internet piracy.

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw promised tougher measures to crackdown on illegal file-sharing.

The government will support sending warning letters to those making illegal downloads of content such as music and films.

Copying something's different from theft but you're still taking someone's material and using it for yourself
Martin, a project manager from Wiltshire, disagrees with illegal downloading of music

Ofcom will also be allowed to release the identities of serial infringers to make it easier for music and film companies to sue them.

Repeat offenders could also have their internet connections slowed down by their internet service provider (ISP) by having their bandwidth reduced, but the report backed away from an earlier suggestion that would block internet access completely.

Communications minister Lord Carter said: "We think online piracy is wrong. It is unacceptable. Creative companies, rights owners, individuals, have a right to protection.

"We wish to put in place a legal framework that provides them with those protections.

"We are going to change the rules that operate in that market to put an obligation on internet service providers to work with the industry regulator to create a regime of notification, where people are indulging in illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing.

"If that doesn't work, they will have the powers to go further."

'Something for nothing'

Daniel, an electrician from Peterborough, supports illegal downloading because he says it gives him the chance to listen to new music before he buys it.

"Artists generally do get paid anyway. A lot of them get paid for making their songs by the record companies.

CD and flash drive
Repeat offenders could have their internet speed slowed down

"They're not necessarily earning money from every sale. It's the fat cats or music executives at the top who are really losing out."

Martin, a project manager from Wiltshire, disagrees with the "buy before you try" and thinks most illegal downloaders want something for nothing.

He said: "Copying something's different from theft but you're still taking someone's material and using it for yourself.

"Whichever way you look at it, it's immoral. If you're illegally downloading something for your own use, that's not helping the industry.

"You could actually go on things like Spotify, who allow you to listen to music and sample it without downloading it."

The government hopes these measures will help cut illegal downloading by 70 to 80%.

Critics, though, say the plans don't go far enough and much tougher action is needed to help reduce the six or seven million people in the UK thought to be involved in illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing.



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