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Ministry of Sound and the backlash against file sharers

We talk to one of the Ministry of Sound's lawyers about the letters they sent to file sharers and the wider problem affecting the music industry.

To date we have sent around 2,000. How many we are going to send out I simply don't know, but we are talking about very large-scale activity, so potentially a lot.

This is an ongoing campaign and I think where the Ministry of Sound is coming from, like most rational people or companies, they don't like instructing lawyers - it is a pain. What they want to do is send out a message that people should not file share their product and their conclusion is that this is the only way of doing it.

What has been the process for you, in this case, for contacting the alleged file sharers?

What it [the letter] does is, it identifies the occasion when the user's IP address has been captured by the software and it explains that when we got the IP address we also were given the name of the ISP that the person had subscribed to.

We have then made an application to the court against the relevant ISP and we have said to the court we have got an arguable case', and to make good my client's claim for copyright infringement we need the ISPs to disclose to us who these subscribers are.

And then we write to the individuals and we explain how we have got their name, how we have got it through this court process and that we have raised a case against them.

[We invite] people's responses. If they have a sensible explanation for this [file sharing], obviously we will have to consider it and we have got to behave proportionally. We look at every case on its merits, every case very carefully.

What we also say is that were this matter to go any further and we were to commence proceedings, if we succeed the court will award damages and our client's costs. And what we do is invite the recipient of the letter to compromise the claim on the basis of a payment of 375.

The 375 is intended to cover damages, the charges that we have incurred with ISPs and legal costs. It is considerably less than the sum we would be asking the court to award us.

Is this case a sign that record companies are at breaking point? Do you now expect to see more cases such as this?

I can't really talk for the whole industry because the industry has been very reluctant over the last 12-13 years to take action. The BPI [the British Phonographic Industry] has been quite nervous. They started writing to people three or four years ago and for whatever reason decided not to go ahead.

One of the really interesting things is that in Germany, where this approach has been followed for the last two or three years, the level of file sharing, I understand, has dropped dramatically by about 25 per cent and that is really what the Ministry of Sound wants to achieve.

And what of the future of file sharing?

I think there will be a move to less file sharing. Whereas, perhaps five or six years ago there were not so many options for lawful downloading of music, now there is absolutely no excuse for not doing it. Anybody can go to Spotify, Last.fm.

Hopefully this [the Ministry of Sound case] is going to nudge people in the right direction and hopefully they will stop doing this activity.

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