Piracy Bites: FAST admits it is powerless

Anti-piracy group admits that at the moment it is unable to stop mass file sharing

The UK's best known anti-piracy organisation, FAST, has admitted to ZDNet that it is powerless to prevent mass software piracy through file sharing applications such as Napster and its most recent clone, Wrapster.

FAST (Federation Against Software Theft) said on Thursday that there is currently no provision in UK law to prosecute users distributing pirated software through peer-to-peer systems like Napster.

"To be honest, there aren't any ways of dealing with it," said Laurence Westwood, manager for copyright and legal services at FAST. "At the moment, I'm not aware of any policy to deal with this -- it's going to give me a few more grey hairs."

The explosive popularity of the MP3 trading application Napster has already sent shockwaves through the music industry and spawned imitators. Thursday saw the appearance of Wrapster, a programme that allows any type of file to be traded over the Napster network. Along with similar programmes such as iMesh, this opens the Internet up for mass trading of applications, such as software and video.

Up until now, FAST believed online piracy was a negligible problem due to bandwidth constraints. However, Westwood admitted that, with BT (quote: BT) trumpeting the arrival of ADSL this summer, things are about to change.

"Once this group [in the Napster community] gets into millions of people, we may have to look at copyright in a different way, and maybe the criminal law needs updating," he said. "Music applications are so big, we thought we had a breathing space, but the problem may be closer than we were thinking," Westwood added.

When ADSL arrives, how much are you going to be using Napster and its clones? Tell the Mailroom.

Take me to the MP3 special.