The U.K. Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) and a coalition of trade unions and rights holders has increased the pressure on the U.K. government to tackle illegal file-sharing.

Paul Quirk, newly elected chairman of ERA, told the association's annual general meeting that illegal P2P file-sharing is the greatest challenge facing entertainment retailers and urged members to lobby government for a crackdown on a problem he said "is bleeding our industry dry."

"Too often the debate over illegal file-sharing is portrayed as an ideological battle, but for us this is a commercial matter," he said. "Illegal file-sharing is damaging our businesses, both physical and digital, on a daily basis, and the government needs to tackle it swiftly and decisively in order to protect jobs, businesses and investment."

Quirk welcomed the fact that the U.K. government has revised its proposals on P2P piracy to include possible suspension of Internet accounts for repeat offenders. This is now part of a consultation along with other technical measures.

ERA has also signed up to the Creative Coalition Campaign, which brings together employers and trade unions to highlight their concerns about file-sharing. The Coalition is urging government to deliver on its proposal to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to implement technical measures against repeat infringers.

"The Digital Economy Bill represents a vital opportunity for government to save and create jobs as well as ensure that the fans of books, sport, music, film and TV can have online access to their favourite high quality content in a way that does not harm the people who help create it," said Martin Spence, assistant general secretary of media and entertainment union BECTU, in a statement. "The rights of consumers and the rights of workers need to be given equal priority."

Meanwhile, Quirk told the ERA AGM that the association is increasingly representing the digital sector as well as mass merchants.

"Not only does ERA now represent the U.K.'s top four supermarkets, we have three of the U.K.'s top four mobile phone operators among our members," he said. "With ISPs also on the membership roll and fully 20% of our members involved in digital retail or services, we can now claim not only to represent traditional retail, independent retail and big retail but also to be the de facto representative body of the U.K.'s digital entertainment business."

Among those joining ERA in the past year were 247 Entertainment, AEI Media, Audiotube, Datz, DX3, emusic, Global Media Vault, Greenpod, Head Entertainment, Imperial Music, Indulge, Media Vault, Morrisons, Movie Mall, Music Box Leisure, People, Raves from the Grave, T-Mobile and We7.

In elections to the board of ERA Paul Quirk was elected chairman, Ben Drury (7digital) was elected deputy chairman and Graham Lambdon (VHS Distribution) was elected Treasurer. In addition Julian Monaghan (Amazon) was re-elected to the board and new members Philip Shepherd (247 Entertainment), Andrew Ground (Lovefilm) and Brad Aspess (Rare Music and DVDs) were also elected.

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