BPI Plays Down Leaked Letter

British Phonographic Industries chief exec Geoff Taylor is playing down a story in the Guardian that said the government was less than happy with his organisation’s role in working out a new agreement to deter illegal file-sharing.

"Any negotiation on a major issue like this is going to be tough and we worked hard to get a good outcome for the creative industries and music fans," he said in a statement in response to the newspaper’s story, which said a hardline letter from the BPI at the 11th hour threatened to undermine the deal.

"To get to a detailed solution that works is not always easy and requires hard negotiation. We have now spoken to BERR [Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform] and they are happy that the issue has been resolved. We are now committed to moving forward, working with all the ISPs, and making the MoU [memorandum of understanding] work," Taylor said.

According to the Guardian, the letter prompted the government to "express its displeasure" of the music industry body in a terse response to record label executives. The BPI letter was signed by Taylor and sent to business minister Baroness Vadera, the U.K.’s six biggest Internet service providers and the Motion Picture Association of America.

The paper said the BPI letter was sent July 23, the day the memorandum of understanding was due to be signed by the government and the various industry signatories.

It said it welcomed the MoU but thought it was important to clarify it did not consider the agreement "an exhaustive solution."

The letter reiterated the BPI’s strong views on enforcement of copyright protection, reminding the signatories that the MoU did not mean a "waiver" of existing legal rights.

"BPI may determine that it is necessary to bring legal action against one or more ISPs under current legislation to protect its members’ rights, notwithstanding any steps that may be taken pursuant to the MoU," it said.

The BPI also stated that in addition to any steps the ISPs were likely to take to combat illegal file-sharing under the MoU, further action by ISPs is required.

One example given was "blocking access to Web sites that procure and facilitate online infringement." The BPI said it reserves the right to exercise its existing legal rights to require such action when it deems appropriate.

Vadera sent a reply expressing her displeasure while carbon copying EMI figurehead Guy Hands and senior executives at Universal, Sony-BMG and Warner Music.

"I was disappointed at the timing, tone as well as content of the attached letter from you yesterday," she said in a letter addressed to Taylor July 24. "I am glad I was able to ensure that the MoU got signed despite it," she said, expressing the hope that the "attitude" of the BPI would be "constructive" going forward.

She said that to deliver the benefits of measures agreed in the MoU there was a need for a "goodwill and a grown-up constructive spirit of finding solutions."

Vadera added that the media coverage, which included speculation of a £30 levy on broadband users that would be collected on behalf of artists, did not reflect the interests of all the signatories of a group that has uniquely come together to try and find a solution for the music industry.