British ISPs, Music Companies Enter Serious Negotiations

British Music Industry Reaches Record $5.8 Billion in 2017
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In recent years, the issue of online piracy has been a major concern for music industry executives and government officials worldwide. The situation in the UK is no different, and there have been growing calls for ISPs and music rights holders to come up with a solution to the problem.

According to numerous executive sources in London, serious negotiations are now taking place between British ISPs and music rights holders. These 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 negotiations have been given added urgency by the fact that the music industry has been hit hard by the decline in physical sales of music and the rise of digital music piracy. In recent years, illegal file-sharing has become increasingly prevalent, with many people downloading music for free from sites like The Pirate Bay and other similar platforms.

The music industry has been calling on ISPs to take a more proactive role in preventing piracy by blocking access to known pirate sites. However, ISPs have been reluctant to take this step, arguing that it is not their responsibility to police the internet.

Despite this, there are signs that progress is being made in the negotiations between the two sides. According to one executive, “A market solution is always going to be better because you have something to control. Once it’s a government solution, you are just a child.”

The negotiations were the focus of much discussion at the recent London Calling industry conference, which brings together labels, publishers, rights societies, artists, managers, and everyone in-between. Sources at the conference were unable to provide details of specific meetings, but it is understood that negotiations have been decentralized, with all of the ISPs meeting with the rights holders.

One of the key figures in the negotiations is Andy Burnham, Culture Secretary and Labour Member of Parliament. Another important player 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.

The involvement of rights societies in the negotiations remains unclear, although it is believed that they are playing a role. “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.

Overall, it seems that progress is being made in the negotiations between British ISPs and music rights holders. While there are still many unanswered questions, the fact that the two sides are talking is a positive step forward in the fight against online piracy.

Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff in London.