media chiefs urge tougher action on internet piracy

Five media chief executives have urged the government to take a tough approach in fighting internet piracy and go beyond its current plans even as it puts the final touches to its Digital Britain white paper .

The group, including the chief executives of fFAootball's Premier League and British Sky Broadcasting, wants Lord Carter, the communications minister, to establish a "rights authority" to "ensure effective control of piracy" in the white paper he has drafted.

However, doubts emerged yesterday whether there would be any concrete proposals on piracy in the white paper, whose scheduled publication date of June 16 now seems likely to be set back amid the political uncertainty.

Six months ago, in an interim report, the government outlined plans for a "rights agency" that would aid enforcement against broadband users who persistently engage in unlawful sharing of copyrighted content.

The group of content owners' chief executives said in a letter to Lord Carter that "tightening and clarifying the legislative framework, within the Digital Britain Bill [sic], will be vital in order to protect all the content and distribution stakeholders and consumers".

The letter was signed by Jeremy Darroch, of British Sky Broadcasting; Lucian Grainge, of Universal Music Group; Michael Lynton, of Sony Pictures; Andy Duncan, of Channel 4; and Richard Scudamore, of the Premier League.

The signatories said that internet service providers and content owners have "key roles to play" in meeting the government's target of reducing illegal downloading by 70 per cent. But the letter emphasised what it hopes ISPs' obligations should be in preventing piracy.

Andy Burnham, the culture secretary, said this week there could be some legislation in the Queen's Speech in November to provide "regulatory underpinning" to the ISPs and rights holders in reaching the government's target.

He said: "I feel we would all recognise that were parliament not to show itself ready to act quickly, we would do a serious disservice to the creative industries of Britain."

Of the companies represented in the letter to Lord Carter, only BSkyB is an ISP.

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