Our preferred option remains a voluntary solution. We are keen to see an agreement that meets the criteria of fairness, legality, effectiveness and flexibility for all the parties involved. We have to recognise, though, that our hopes for such an agreement may be too ambitious. It would be very disappointing if we have to legislate—but nobody should doubt our willingness to do so if an agreement cannot be reached.
Both Ministers and officials in BERR have had meetings with a wide range of internet service providers, rights holders and representatives of consumers both in the run up to, and following, the publication of the Creative Economy Strategy Paper on 22 February 2008 in which we announced that, while voluntary commercial solutions to the problem would be preferable, we would consult on legislation that would require internet service providers and rights holders to co-operate in taking action on illegal file sharing if suitable arrangements between ISPs and relevant sectors were not forthcoming or proved insufficient. Those discussions have significantly informed our understanding of the issues involved, the potential for an industry solution and possible regulatory approaches if necessary.
BERR has made no such estimates. The nature of the problem means that it is very difficult to obtain robust data on. According to studies conducted by Jupiter Research, commissioned by the BPI, 6.5 million people in the UK engaged in online music “piracy” in 2007. A separate survey by Entertainment Media Research showed that in 2007 some 43 per cent. of respondents had downloaded unauthorised music from file-sharing sites, although a different survey by Olswang into convergence reported lower figures, whereby only 14 per cent. of respondents admitted unlawfully copying music.