Exclusive The record industry is pressing the UK's ISPs for a deal that would see persistent illegal file sharers automatically booted off the net.
High-level talks between the ruling council of internet trade body ISPA and the Music Publishers Association are aiming to settle the historic tension between the two industries.
Comments from a government Minister yesterday hint that an unlikely bargain could be approaching. Lord Triesman said talks are "progressing more promisingly than people might have thought six months ago".
People familiar with the negotiations say the ISPs would prefer a financial penalty to a full disconnection.
The providers are concerned that terminating access is a disproportionate response. The internet is rapidly becoming an essential part of national infrastructure for consumers, they argue, not merely a source of entertainment.
And from the ISPs' perspective, the government is sending out mixed signals on the issue.
On one hand, Competitiveness Minister Stephen Timms has made several speeches recently pushing the importance of access to, and investment in, the internet.
On the other, Triesman, the parliamentary under secretary for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said the government would hit providers with regulations if they do not clamp down on file sharers.
A department spokeswoman told The Reg today: "This is an area where we will take action if we have to." The government would like to see a "range of sanctions" available to punish infringers and would prefer a voluntary setup, she added.
Part of the government's agenda seems certain to include a digital fingerprinting system to monitor infringing content. Triesman said: "Where people have registered music as an intellectual property I believe we will be able to match data banks of that music to music going out and being exchanged on the net."
Publicly, ISPA maintains its stance that the providers are neutral carriers who could not possibly intervene in this way. ®
Lord Triesman was a member of the Communist Party in the early 1970s. Ironic? You might say that, but he couldn't possibly comment.