Virgin Media denies purge on pirates

Virgin Media denies purge on pirates

So, ruefully, does the British music industry

Virgin Media has denied that it has teamed up with music trade organisation, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), in a trial crackdown on illegal downloaders.

Spokesman Asam Ahmad said that like all service providers the company is looking at the issue and had held talks with the BPI but were far from coming to any agreement.

He said the BPI was seeking a "three strikes and you are out" system by which persistent offenders would be disconnected. But there were many problems with this.

The BPI's idea was that the music industry would track offenders and report them to service providers. This raised questions about who was to pay for administrating the system, for instance the cost of writing and sending letters, and who would be liable if an innocent user was fingered.

Ahmad said it is difficult to police peer-to-peer traffic because some of it is legitimate. But something had to be done by April next year, which is the government deadline for service providers to take action.

"We favour a voluntary system because if the government gets involved controls could be a lot more stringent."

The BPI issued a rueful denial after the claim of the Virgin Media trial appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said: “It is true that the BPI is talking to major ISPs, including Virgin Media, about how we can work in partnership to create a richer legal music downloading experience that benefits everyone and reduce online music theft.

And while we are encouraged that Virgin Media agree illegal downloading is a serious problem that they should help us address, years of talks have not been backed by action. Time is now of the essence."

“Unfortunately it simply isn't true that we have agreed a pilot - or any sort of deal - with Virgin Media, though we continue to work towards that. We think that every socially responsible ISP should help their customers avoid the illegal use of their broadband account.”

Charles Dunstone, head of Carphone Warehouse, which runs the TalkTalk broadband service, told the BBC today that it was not his job to be an internet policeman.