Illegal File-Sharing Rife In UK, Claims BPI


Illegal file-sharing is as widespread as ever, despite plans for new government legislation to cut off pirates, but Rage Against the Machine proves there is still hope for legal downloading

Levels of illegal file-sharing are not declining, despite a recent crackdown by the government and significant media coverage on the issue, according to UK recorded music industry group BPI.

The report found that while levels of illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing have remained steady during 2009, web-based, non-P2P methods of downloading music illegally – such as from overseas MP3 pay sites, newsgroups, blogs and cyberlockers – are growing considerably.

Of the 3,442 people aged 16-54 that took part in the survey 1,012 respondents admitted to downloading or file-sharing music on peer-to-peer networks or from other web sources. The study was carried out by Harris Interactive on behalf of BPI during November 2009.


There was an overall increase in the use of web-based or “non-P2P” methods of illegally downloading material, with the biggest increase coming from overseas unlicensed MP3 pay sites, which rose by 47 percent in the last six months. Use of newsgroups also rose by 42 percent, while MP3 search engines increased by 28 percent, and forum, blog and board links to cyberlockers – which enable users to upload and store files, including copyrighted material, for others to download – rose by 18 percent.

“There are now more than 35 legal digital music services in the UK, offering music fans a great choice of ways to get music legally,” said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor. “It’s disappointing that levels of illegal P2P use remain high despite this and the publicity surrounding imminent measures to address the problem. It’s vital that those measures come into force as quickly as possible.

“The growth in other, non-P2P methods of downloading music illegally is a concern, and highlights the importance of including a mechanism in the Digital Economy Bill to deal with threats other than P2P,” he added.

The government laid out its strategy to combat illegal file-sharing in the Digital Economy Bill during the Queen’s speech in November. Lord Mandelson plans to implement an escalating series of sanctions, starting with sending letters to illegal downloaders and culminating in slowing down the connection speed of offenders or temporarily suspending their connections.

At the time John Lovelock, chief executive of the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), voiced his support for the bill, saying “People see software piracy as a victimless crime, but it robs organisations of their legitimate revenue to invest in new products, employees of their livelihood, and the government of taxable income from sales which all UK citizens benefit from eventually.”

However, the government’s proposed measures for combating illegal file-sharing have been slammed by the UK Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) and broadband ISP TalkTalk, which said they would do little to address the underlying problem.

“Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the government should be asking rights holders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding,” said ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman in a statement.


In other news, a victory was won for legal music downloading this weekend, when Californian rock band Rage Against the Machine beat the X-Factor’s Joe McElderry to Christmas top spot on the basis of downloads alone. Rage Against the Machine’s track “Killing In The Name” sold 502,672 copies last week, about 50,000 more than McElderry’s ballad, “The Climb”.

In recent years, it has come to be assumed that any winner of the X-Factor will go on to achieve Christmas number one in the UK. Shayne Ward, Leona Lewis Leon Jackson and Alexandra Burke have all claimed the prize over the last four years. However, this year, part-time rock DJ Jon Morter from Essex decided to start a campaign on Facebook to encourage people to support a rival act.

“Are you getting fed up about the possibility of ANOTHER X-Factor Christmas No.1? …us too…so we’re going to do something about it!” wrote Morter on the group Info page. “We are all buying a download of ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ by RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE right NOW! until the end of Saturday 19th December (23:59pm).”

X-Factor boss Simon Cowell admitted he was “gutted” that McElderry was beaten, but also said he was impressed by the campaign. “It has been a good campaign with no dirty tricks and without any funding. They have been passionate and worked hard,” Cowell told the Daily Mirror. He has since offered Morter and his wife Tracy jobs at his record company.

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