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Virgin Media: Spotify deal will bring down piracy

A deal between the UK ISP and the Swedish music-streaming service could cut online copyright infringement, Virgin Media's regulatory chief has argued
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Virgin Media has signed a deal with Spotify that will see the Swedish company's music-streaming service made available to customers of the British ISP at discounted rates.

Matt Rogerson Virgin

Virgin Media's Matt Rogerson says easier access to legal online music will cut copyright infringement. Photo credit: David Meyer

The deal, announced on Wednesday, puts Spotify on three Virgin platforms: broadband, mobile and its TiVo web-connected TV system. The operator's customers will get special Spotify features, content and promotions, although no details have been given yet.

According to Matt Rogerson, Virgin's regulatory chief, the Spotify tie-in also has potential to cut unlawful file-sharing, as customers will have an easy way to get licensed music.

"If you bundle it in with broadband, consumers are more inclined to buy it," Rogerson told ZDNet UK at a Westminster Media Forum on Wednesday. "In Sweden, [Spotify has] had a real impact in the reduction of piracy."

In his recent government-commissioned review of UK intellectual property law, Ian Hargreaves followed others in making the point that punishment for so-called pirates has to be balanced with easy access to legal online content, if online copyright infringement is to fall.

Rogerson said there is enough content available to people in a cheap, easily-accessible online form — particularly Hollywood movies. ISPs such as Virgin and Sky have long been trying to organise music and film deals for their customers, but these have either failed after launching or have not come to fruition at all.


Negotiations with multiple studios and labels is a major part of the problem, although competition from streaming services such as Spotify has also been an issue. The Sky Songs music service closed at the end of 2010 after being open for less than a year, apparently due to a lack of consumer interest in buying music as opposed to streaming it.

Virgin is still embroiled in negotiations with the big record labels, with a view to creating a service that is separate from the Spotify deal, according to a company spokesman.

"We did have intentions to launch a music store-type service, and we are still in discussion with the various labels on that, but this is a different proposition — more about streaming and availability of music on a non-purchase basis, which is what consumers seem to want to go for," the spokesman told ZDNet UK.

"There is an obvious advantage by working with Spotify... it makes it a much more straightforward commercial relationship, [just] between ourselves and Spotify," he added. "It's not eliminating the record labels, because they're involved with Spotify themselves, but this is ultimately about the consumer."

The spokesman also confirmed Virgin has no plans to treat traffic resulting from the Spotify deal any differently to other broadband traffic — a move that would, if implemented, have broken net-neutrality principles.

"It wouldn't make sense to prioritise the traffic, because it would be almost impossible to distinguish between customers who got [Spotify's service] from us or through Spotify," the spokesman said. "It's also low-bitrate — it's not video".

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