The BPI’s decision to settle out of court with 23 UK Internet Users for illegal file sharing has met with a degree of interest, but not with the degree of hostility the RIAA’s similar actions in the US met with. There’s a good reason for this: the UK music industry has been careful to pursue a balanced approach that actively promotes the legal services whilst using legal action as a final measure deterrent and chairman Peter Jamieson has been quick to give an industry seal of approval to new legal service launches. Thus the BPI’s profile has become associated as much (if not more) with the promotion of online music as it has been with tackling illegal activity.
Of course, non of this means that the legal action will necessarily have an immediate impact. File sharing has become firmly established among UK Internet users, massively out performing the legitimate services, as shown by some recent JupiterResearch consumer survey data. Legal action has to be seen as part of a slow integrated strategy that will bit by but reduced the impact of file sharing. But it’s not going to wipe it out. The utopian ideal of a world without illegal file sharing simply won’t happen, in the same way as shop lifting will never wholly disappear from the music retail equation. What the industry needs to hope for it a more achievable aim of driving it out of the mainstream and back to the margins where it belongs.