by Leigh Phillips
With sales of compact discs across Europe in free-fall, the record industry has called on the EU to follow French president Nicolas Sarkozy's lead and force internet service providers to disconnect customers who illegally download music.
"Up until now, ISPs have allowed copyright theft to run rampant on their networks, causing a massive devaluation of copyrighted music," said John Kennedy, the CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the record industry trade association. "The time for action is now -- from the EU and other governments."
The IFPI believes the mood of indulging ISPs and their downloading customers is coming to an end.
"2007 was the year ISP responsibility started to become an accepted principle," he said. "2008 must be the year it becomes reality."
Last November, president Sarkozy backed an initiative in partnership with the record industry and internet providers that would see ISPs automatically disconnect customers who illegally download copyrighted material.
"More than anyone else in 2007, our industry has to thank French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the chairman of FNAC [the France-based chain of record and electronics superstores], Denis Olivennes, for the change of mood," said Mr Kennedy.
The Sarkozy agreement, announced in November, is the most significant milestone yet in the task of curbing piracy on the internet.
The French president's move requires ISPs to disconnect customers using an automated system and to test filtering technologies.
Mr Kennedy made comments in an IFPI report on the state of the sector. Although there was a 40 percent increase in digital sales globally in 2007, according to the report, there was a 10 percent decline in sales of compact discs last year.
The report also praised government moves against illegal downloading in Sweden, Belgium, the UK, the US and Asia.
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BusinessWeek Europe January 28, 2008 1:04PM EST