British ISPs, Music Companies Enter Serious Negotiations

British Music Industry Reaches Record $5.8 Billion in 2017
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British ISPs and music rights holders are now engaged in serious negotiations, according to numerous executive sources in London.

The talks are being motivated by pressure from legislators, who have threatened to enact their own measures to resolve massive piracy issues if the industries cannot devise their own solutions.  “The British government just put a gun to our head,” one top-level executive bluntly told Digital Music News.

The stepped-up pressure follows earlier threats by the British government, including a previously-imposed April, 2009 deadline for hammering a solution.  But according to one source, legislators are upping their timetables, and intensifying the threat of an outside resolution.

The result is a motivated group of executives.  “A market solution is always going to be better because you have something to control,” one executive explained.  “Once it’s a government solution, you are just a child.”

The chatter intensified on Friday at London Calling, an annual industry conference that features labels, publishers, rights societies, artists, managers, and everyone in-between.  Sources were unable, or unwilling, to describe specific meetings, though the negotiations appeared decentralized.  “All of the ISPs are at the table meeting with the rights holders,” another source relayed.  “But it’s not a roundtable.”

That leaves a number of open questions, including the involvement of rights societies.  “Presumably the societies are involved, though I am not sure of the extent of their involvement,” a fourth source noted while pointing to the presence of higher-level decision-makers within all of the negotiations.

On the legislative side, insiders described a critical role by Andy Burnham, Culture Secretary and Labour Member of Parliament.  Also playing an important role is Feargal Sharkey, a former pop star who is currently chief executive of British Music Rights (BMR), an organization that represents more than 50,000 composers and publishers.

Sharkey offered tentative optimism on the discussions at London Calling.  “At this moment, I am completely optimistic,” Sharkey said.  “Three months ago these guys wouldn’t even get into the same room.”  Participating ISPs include Tiscali, Carphone Warehouse, Virgin, and BT, according to another source.

Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff in London.