British ISPs Slam Music Tariffs Plan

Maintaining they are "mere conduits," Internet service providers refuse to pay music companies for illegal downloads

Internet companies have slammed calls for a tariff that would mean they have to pay music companies for money lost due to illegal downloads.

Proposals to introduce charges for ISPs were handed to a government think tank on intellectual property last week.

But the Internet Service Providers' Association today issued a statement rebutting the idea. It said: "[We do] not support abuses of copyright and intellectual property theft.

"ISPs bear no liability for illegal file-sharing as the content is not hosted on their servers. Although such files may be transmitted across an ISP's network, ISPs are 'mere conduits' of information, as per the E-Commerce Regulations 2002.

"ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope."

But the Association of Independent Music (AIM) argues it is unfair that musicians are left unpaid when their material is downloaded over unauthorised file-sharing networks.

It says while some consumers are being sued for infringing copyright, ISPs, mobile operators and hardware device manufacturers "profit extensively".

The AIM has proposed a Value Recognition Right, which if passed would allow the music industry to take money from "any company deriving value from either the sharing or storage of music". The goal is to make unlicensed intermediaries - rather than consumers - the target of copyright enforcement actions.

Alison Wenham, chairman of AIM, said in a statement: "We believe the Value Recognition Right is the most innovative potential answer to problems which current applications of Copyright Law cannot properly deal with."

On Monday, UK music industry body the BPI called on ISPs Cable & Wireless and Tiscali to "pull the plug" on accounts used for illegal file-sharing.