Online Piracy Put on ISPs' Shoulders

LONDON - Talks between Internet service providers and the television and film industries over online piracy have disintegrated once again.

According to The Independent, digital copyright infringement cost 460 million pounds ($908.6 million) in 2006, and the number of people illegally accessing film and TV shot up from 9 percent of the adult population in 2006 to 16 percent in 2007.

The creative industries say the responsibility falls on the ISPs' shoulders because only they can identify users who download pirated content or illegally share files. However, broadband companies say this type of monitoring is synonymous with policing the Internet.

The government announced in February that it intends to bring in new legislation unless the industry imposes some form of self-regulation. Despite the first stage of government consultation due to conclude before this summer, talks between the Motion Picture Association and the Internet Service Providers' Association have gone nowhere.

According to insiders, some smaller ISPs were sympathetic to proposals for graduated responses to online pirates, such as issuing a number of written warnings before taking actions along the lines of reducing connection speeds or turning off all browsing facilities except email. The worry is that Britain will follow the path taken by South Korea, where the high penetration of super-fast broadband has wreaked havoc in the audio-visual industry.

"In South Korea, digital piracy is out of control," said Lavinia Carey of the British Video Association. "Britain is particularly affected because it is the smaller companies, which do not have the U.S. studio system propping them up, that are the most vulnerable."