One of the brightest burning topics in the U.K. industry -- the labels' ongoing dialog with ISPs -- was discussed and dissected today at the BPI annual general meeting.

Today's gathering at the Mayfair Hotel in central London was held against the backdrop of a serious breakthrough in talks between rights holders and broadband service providers. As previously reported, Virgin Media has broken ranks to launch a round of 800 "educational" letters to customers, warning that file-sharing infringements will ultimately be met with disconnection, while market-leader BT has quietly followed suit with a user awareness campaign of its own.

"We're at a really interesting point," noted Emma Pike, Sony BMG VP communications and artist relations, during a panel discussion. "Over the last few years, there has been a standoff between ISPs and the industry. But that is starting to change."

Mike Batt, BPI vice chairman and chairman of Dramatico Entertainment, chipped in, "We all hope that they (ISPs) will fall in line." He added, "We would like the user to continue to buy music cheaply. The operative word being 'buy'. All parties want to find the right balance."

Following a barrage of criticism from within the music industry, ISPs have come under government pressure to come up with a solution on filesharing, or face legislation from early 2009.

The trade body's CEO Geoff Taylor today reiterated that discussions were ongoing to find a mutually-beneficial agreement with ISPs without the realization of government intervention. But the industry would not be a soft-touch, he stated. "We think ISPs have responsibilities," said Taylor, adding if individual companies play the pariah, "then they will be forced to change their position."

Tony Wadsworth, chairman of the BPI, noted, "We're not against digital possibilities. The only issue is that we have to be paid for [the content]." He concluded, "We need to keep our eyes on the prize. The prize is not disconnection. All we want is some good commercial music markets in the digital space."

The annual gathering, held under the "Music Affects" banner, was preceded by the Annual Conference for Members. The members-only session featured presentations by independent companies' digital rights agency Merlin CEO Charles Caldas, Official U.K. Charts Company managing director Martin Talbot, Orchard International CEO Scott Cohen, and an introduction by ACM organizer Juliana Wall, the BPI's director international and independent member services.

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