Friday, September 25, 2009 10:48am by  
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Lily Allen insists Mandelson's plans are too Draconian

The music industry’s battle to have persistent internet pirates disconnected was dealt a huge blow last night after leading musicians including Lily Allen settled their differences and agreed that plans to suspend internet access were too draconian.

The industry has been stricken by infighting since Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, proposed that the connections of those who consistently flouted the law should be suspended temporarily. Supporters of the plans, which at one stage included Allen, became involved in public arguments with the Featured Artists Coalition, which includes the musician Billy Bragg and members of Radiohead and Pink Floyd.

A meeting of nearly 100 leading artists on both sides of the debate including Allen and some from the FAC voted last night to call on Lord Mandelson to instead slow down the connections of persistent law breakers, as was suggested in the Government’s Digital Britain report, published in June.

The artists said, "Our meeting voted to support a three-strike sanction on those who persistently download illegal files, to consist of a warning letter, a stronger warning letter, and a final sanction of the restriction of the infringers’ bandwith to a level which would render file-sharing of media files impractical while leaving basic e-mail and web access functional.”

The group also condemned the vitriol that Allen had faced on an internet blog that she had set up to argue against music piracy. Yesterday, Allen closed the blog, saying that “the abuse was getting too much”.

The statement which the group is expected to turn into a letter to Lord Mandelson added: "We the undersigned wish to express our support for Lily Allen in her campaign to alert music lovers to the threat that illegal downloading presents to our industry."

Bragg said after last night’s meeting: “We are trying to find a proportionate response to a real problem that is damaging our industry. I hope it will convince the record labels that this is a way of sending a message to file-sharers.”

The new unity, which saw previously non-aligned artists such as George Michael also sign up to the statement, seriously damages lobbying efforts by record labels and other areas of the industry to push through Lord Mandelson’s proposals.

UK Music, the umbrella organisation that represents the music industry, last week dropped all mentions of disconnection in public statements in an attempt to find a unified stance.

The rest of the music business, including record labels, royalty collectors and artist managers, will this morning discuss whether to settle for the measures supported by the artists, or to continue to push for disconnection. They are expected to draft a letter to Lord Mandelson setting out their views.

The peer himself gave only lukewarm support to the proposals yesterday, fuelling speculation that the Government will abandon them. Appearing at the Brit School in Croydon, in South London, he said temporary suspension was "an option".

He added, "We are talking about a temporary, possibly short lived, suspension of persistent unlawful file sharers after many written notifications with a chance to appeal. It does not get more modest or more fair than that. But we have a responsibility to put these options forward for people to debate."

Watch the Featured Artists Coalition launch video below: