The British Phonographic Industry is trying to enlist ISPs (Internet service providers) in its battle against illegal file sharing, a move that could allow it to target more music traders and reduce the amount of time it spends in court.
It was unclear how much help it will get from the ISPs, however, with one service provider saying the initiative is "not really a welcome approach."
The BPI, which represents music copyright holders in the UK, on Monday asked Tiscali and Cable and Wireless to shut down 59 accounts allegedly being used to upload thousands of pirate recordings to the Internet.
It sent letters to the ISPs regarding 17 Tiscali accounts and 42 Cable & Wireless accounts, said BPI spokesman Matt Phillips. The 59 accounts represent the "worst offenders," he said.
Asking the ISPs to shut down accounts is a new approach for BPI. In the past it went to court to get ISPs to turn over names and addresses of suspected file sharers, then took legal action against the individuals.
Of 139 people targeted in the past, BPI settled with 111 out of court for amounts up to £6,500 (US$12,000). Four cases that went to court were decided in favour of BPI, and the remaining 25 legal actions are pending, BPI said.
The group is now asking ISPs to enforce their own acceptable use policies, which often ban illegal file sharing. This means fewer time-consuming legal cases for the BPI and should allow it to go after more illegal file sharers, Phillips said. "This approach is far more effective for us," he said.
Cable & Wireless said its Bulldog ISP division has a policy to shut down accounts used for illegal file sharing. "We will take whatever steps are necessary to put the matter right," the company said.
Tiscali was less enthusiastic. It does ban file sharing but does not suspend accounts upon request, and is investigating the information provided by BPI, said Tiscali spokeswoman Jody Haskayne. BPI presented evidence for only one of the 17 accounts it requested be cut off; Tiscali plans to ask BPI for more information, she said.
BPI went to the press at around the same time the letters were sent to the ISPs, making it something of a media "ambush," she said.
"It might be a different tack for them, but it isn't in the spirit of collaboration within our industry," Haskayne said. "We very much support legal music. This was not really a welcome approach."
BPI used peer-to-peer file-sharing software to find out the IP addresses of the people it thinks were trading music illegally. When a file is available for download, the IP address for the account is often revealed, and BPI can then give the address to the ISP. Log files can show which subscriber used a particular IP address even if it is dynamically assigned.