By Mark Sweney, Guardian.co.uk, Thursday July 31 2008
A hardline letter sent by the BPI at the 11th hour threatened to undermine a deal to tackle illegal filesharing, prompting the government to express its displeasure of the music industry body in a terse response to record label executives.
The BPI’s letter, signed by the body’s chief executive, Geoff Taylor, was sent to Baroness Vadera, the business minister; the UK’s six biggest internet service providers; and the Motion Picture Association of America, the Hollywood studios’ trade organisation.
It was sent on the morning of July 23, the day the memorandum of understanding was due to be signed by the government and the various music, film and internet industry signatories.
In the letter the BPI, which represents the UK recorded music industry, said it welcomed the MoU, but thought it was important to ‘clarify’ that it did not consider the agreement to be an ‘exhaustive solution’.
The letter reiterated the BPI’s strong views on enforcement of copyright protection, reminding the signatories that the MoU did not mean a ‘waiver’ of existing legal rights.
‘BPI may determine that it is necessary to bring legal action against one or more ISPs under current legislation to protect its members’ rights, notwithstanding any steps that may be taken pursuant to the MoU,’ Taylor’s letter stated.
The BPI also said that in addition to any steps the ISPs were likely to take to combat illegal filesharing under the MoU, ‘further action by ISPs is required’.
One example given was ‘blocking access to websites that procure and facilitate online infringement. BPI reserves the right to exercise its existing legal rights to require such action when it deems appropriate.’
The BPI’s letter was given short shrift by Vadera, who sent a reply copying in Guy Hands, the chief executive of EMI owner Terra Firma, and senior executives at Universal, Sony BMG and Warner Music, expressing her displeasure.
‘I was disappointed at the timing, tone as well as content of the attached letter from you yesterday,’ she said in a letter addressed to Taylor sent on July 24. ‘I am glad I was able to ensure that the MoU got signed despite it.’
Vadera added that she hoped the ‘attitude’ of the BPI would be ‘constructive’ going forward.
She said that to deliver the benefits of measures agreed in the MoU there was a need for a ‘goodwill and a grown-up constructive spirit of finding solutions’.
Vadera added that the media coverage, which included speculation of a £30 levy on users, did not ‘reflect the interests of all the signatories of a group that has uniquely come together to try and find a solution for the music industry’.
In contrast to the music industry, the six internet service providers signed the MoU individually.
‘The MoU is an excellent result. Any negotiation on a major issue like this is going to be tough and we worked hard to get a good outcome for the creative industries and music fans,’ a BPI spokesman said.
‘To get to a solution that works is not always easy and requires hard negotiation. We have spoken to [Vadera’s department] and they recognise our good faith in all aspects of the MoU process. We are fully committed to moving forward, working with all the ISPs, and making the MoU work.'”