The UK download procedure

The scale of illegal file sharing on the Internet is continuously increasing and as reports Telegraph, it is estimated that 6.5 million UK internet users download illegally copyrighted material every year and about 95 per cent of music downloads are thought to be illegal. This proceder will cost the British music industry £1billion in the next two years.

On July 24 association of UK record companies – BPI has reached a groundbreaking agreement with the country’s six major internet service providers (ISPs) and government on measures to be undertaken in order to “significantly reduce” illegal file sharing.

BPI and internet providers have signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), stipulating cooperation of both signatories in counteracting illegal downloading. Consequently, for the first time ISP’s are required to join the music industry’s battle with Internet users infringing copyrights and are equally responsible to help dealing with illegal filesharing online.

According to the MOU, to achieve this goal in the first year hundreds of thousands of informative letters will be sent by participating ISPs to customers who have been identified by BPI as being alleged of illegal downloading, warning them they are breaking the law by copying and sharing the music.

No sanctions are planned yet in case of repeated copyright infringement, however signatories will work together to identify effective mechanisms to deal with offenders that are ignoring the letters.

One of possible solutions is withdrawing the system of such internet users or slowing it to such an extent it would be impossible to file share. However the Government will also consider the idea of implementing the same policy as the one presented in France, under which people who illicitly download or share music are disconnected after ignoring two warnings.

Alongside the MOU another moves that make part of a package of proposals designed to tackle illegal file sharing of music are likely to take place.

One of such proposals, supported by the Government and internet service providers, is the new legislation according to which Internet users would be charged annual “licence fee” of £30, allowing them to copy as much music as they want. The money would be later distributed to the record companies and later to the artists proportionally to their sales. They believe it would prevent criminalizing large sections of the public, while helping to compensate the music industry for lost sales.

The French download procedure

France’s Cultural Minister Christine Albanel introduced a new bill which aims to persuade Internet users to refrain from illegal downloads under the threat of revoking the user’s Internet access. On June 18 the bill was approved by the Council of Ministers.

The key strategy of the project is the three-strikes policy (or riposte graduée) that it will impose upon illegal downloader.

Additionally the bill assumes establishment of a new state agency to be called HADOPI (High Authority for Copyright Protection and Dissemination of Works on the Internet), which will be responsible for realizing Albanel’s strategy.

If the bill is passed, HADOPI will be charged with the “collections of IP addresses through which illegal downloads of protected material have been made.” When an internet user is detected to have been downloading illegally, the High Authority will warn him via e-mail (this will mean the first strike). Upon the second violation, he’ll be sent an official letter to “ensure the person is fully aware of the alleged breach” (second strike). After the third violation there will be the sanction imposed – namely – user’s Internet subscription, through cross-industry agreements with local ISPs, will be suspended for a period of three months to one year.

The bill is expected to be voted upon in Parliament in the fall of 2008. If passed, it will take effect at the beginning of 2009.

By Magdalena JÓŹWIAK, Intellectual property lawyer

Published August 11,2008 on the website

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