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rival ISPs unite against 'misconceived' anti-piracy plan

Business rivals Charles Dunstone, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, and Ian Livingston, chief executive of BT, have criticised government plans to remove internet access from people found illegally downloading music, saying the notion is "misconceived".

In a letter to The Times today, Dunstone, whose company owns TalkTalk, and Livingston, have said that while they do not condone illegal file sharing, the plan to ban guilty parties from having an internet connection were "misconceived and threaten broadband consumers' rights and the development of new attractive services".

The letter says that restricting internet access is akin to restricting the guilty parties' freedom of expression -- a punishment usually only handed out to those who have committed crimes such as incitement to racial hatred or libel.

The government has recently stepped up plans to curb illegal file-sharing, with the Digital Britain report, released in June this year, calling for a 70% reduction in online piracy within a year.

The onus was placed on ISPs to do this by detecting customers who download copyrighted materials. However today's letter to The Times said that it is "grossly unfair" that they should bear the cost of measures to support the creative industries.

Initial proposals in Lord Carter's report would have given ISPs the power to "squeeze" the bandwidth of persistent offenders, after sending them written warnings, effectively making it impossible to download large files.

However, The Times exposed plans to ban offenders from having internet access entirely.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson is reported to have renewed efforts to tackle the problem after meeting with music and film mogul David Geffen during his summer holidays although Lord Mandelson denied that the subject of internet piracy had come up in a letter to The Guardian.

Other signatories to The Times letter include Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, Ed Mayo, chief executive of Consumer Focus, Deborah Prince, head of legal affairs at Which? and Tom Alexander, chief executive of Orange UK.

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