Last night, heads of the international music industry had ‘crisis’ talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, centering on the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s claim that the German music market has declined 50% since 2002. Demands came for more assistance to help the industry against piracy and measures to make ISPs take action against their own customers when the music industry feels they may be trading copyright material.
Indeed, the IFPI have something specific in mind. They would like to ‘introduce an obligation on ISPs to terminate service to subscribers abusing the service to make infringing content available’. Potentially, that means terminating your internet access if you’re caught uploading one track. But if you prefer to take it literally, ‘making available’ means that a track sitting in your shared folder that you have never uploaded to anyone, could cost you your internet connection. Quite a punishment. To make matters worse, uploading is built into the BitTorrent protocol so using torrents and not falling foul of these demands becomes almost impossible.
Commenting on the meeting with Merkel, John Kennedy, Chairman of the IFPI said, “The international recording industry has now taken its concerns about the state of the German music market to the highest political level in Europe. We left the meeting appreciative of the fact that the Chancellor understood the nature of the problems we are facing and is willing to play a role in seeking a solution to them. If the German government acts now, we are confident that the German music industry could reverse the decline and be viable again in three to five years.”
According to the IFPI, 374 million illegal files were downloaded by German file-sharers in 2006 but the act of downloading (rather than uploading) appears to evade the scope of these demands by the IFPI. However, while this may be good news for users of other protocols, there is no good news for BitTorrent users. It’s very unusual to download something using BitTorrent without uploading so under these demands, even using BitTorrent to obtain material for personal use becomes an offense punishable by internet disconnection. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when the use of BitTorrent in Germany is reaching record highs.
Other complaints from the IFPI include the issue of piracy on the Czech/German border. Last month, as a result of IFPI action, a Czech court handed out it’s first ever jail sentence to a file-sharer. The IFPI plans to sue 12,000 file-sharers in 2007.