The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has accused BT of aiding and abetting illegal file-sharing by refusing to adopt a hard-line approach to peer-to-peer networks.
The music industry body, which blames file-sharing for falling CD sales, told the BBC that BT has consistently refused to discuss the phenomenon of file-sharing and the online distribution of copyrighted material which first came to prominence with the meteoric rise of Napster.
However, BT was quick to reject any allegations of complicity or wrongdoing. Tony Henderson, a spokesman for BT Openworld, said: "We were surprised and disappointed to hear that that BPI said we don't talk to them on this issue, as we've spoken to them many times. The chairman of the BPI even came to the launch of our dot-music service -- which is a legal service offering music downloads."
Henderson believes the BPI has picked a fight with the wrong company, claiming it's not BT Openworld's responsibility to monitor those using its broadband bandwidth for file-sharing.
"It's not within the power of the ISPs to control these services," he said. "We don't have a responsibility to police the Internet or monitor what people are using our services for."
However, while Henderson believes it is not his company's responsibility to stamp out individual file sharing, he said that if the BPI came to them with evidence of a BT Openworld-hosted site running a service which was in breach of copyright rules then the owner of the site would be contacted and told to remove the illegal material.
But that, according to Henderson, is as far as BT feels it is required to go.
The BPI was not available for comment at the time of writing.
The BPI Web site includes a list of the most frequently pirated artists. Surprisingly, despite the assumption that file-sharing has accounted for a massive rise in piracy, and is by and large a phenomenon among the young, the artists who most commonly fall victim to the pirates are, with a couple of exceptions, rock legends of the sixties, seventies and eighties -- with no sign of Eminem, P Diddy or Britney Spears anywhere in the list.
The Rolling Stones are the most commonly bootlegged, followed in the top 10 by Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Prince, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd and Neil Young.