The apparent success of a campaign to tackle illegal downloading in the piracy haven of Sweden could provide a timely solution to wrangles between the UK's broadband providers and music companies.
According to reports, yesterday saw internet traffic in Sweden fall by 30 per cent. Meanwhile, the amount of data being transferred fell to 80Gb per second. This compared with some 120Gb on the same day last week. The slump, which was recorded by Netnod, followed the introduction of a new government policy which targets online piracy. The regulation legally binds broadband providers to hand over the details of illegal downloaders to the parties who hold the copyright for the downloaded material.
It is thought that the fall in usage was so marked on Thursday due to the high level of illegal downloading that takes place in Sweden. With fines of thousands of pounds for infringing copyright now a very real possibility, the new rule appears to have had the desired effect of discouraging the practice.
The immediate impact of the Swedish scheme suggests a similar policy could prove a solution to the problem of downloading in the UK, where the relationship between UK internet service providers (ISPs) and music companies has continually worsened.
The already icy relations took a turn for the worse when a group of record companies suggested that broadband providers should pay a levy to compensate them for their losses. This has been rejected as unworkable since it would drive up the cost of consumer broadband at a time when the government is embarking on a digital inclusion programme.
In the meantime, efforts to resolve the problem appear to have floundered. This was situation was exacerbated when a legal music sharing service proposed by Virgin collapsed early this year after music companies and ISPs failed to agree on terms.
However, the Swedish model could present a solution to the wrangles. Certainly were it to repeat its apparent success in the UK it could potentially head off the need for a tax payable to music companies.
News of developments in the battle against internet piracy follows a scathing attack on broadband providers from Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musical theatre impresario has claimed that unless the UK government cracks down on illegal downloads, the number of Britons engaged in the practice will rise from its current figure of 7.3 million to hit 8.7 million by 2012.