Billy Bragg has slammed the BPI's latest downloader letters initiative branding the agreement between the government, ISPs and the BPI as a smokescreen, obscuring the crisis that the record industry is in.

"If this were an ordinary copyright infringement case, the record companies would put their lawyers onto the ISPs," Bragg wrote in the Guardian this week.

"However, everyone knows that the music industry is using internet sites, particularly the big social networks such as MySpace, to promote their artists," he adds.

Letters merely a gesture

Put simply, Bragg argues that the music industry just cannot afford to "bite the hand of the ISPs, which provide them with access to potential customers."

Bragg, like any common-sense internet savvy adult, laments the BPI's misjudged thinking behind the 'warning letter' idea.

"Without some kind of legal framework to back it up, it's nothing more than a gesture. The real problem for the record companies is that the ground is changing beneath them. New technology has made it possible for people to acquire music without going through the traditional route of buying objects in a shop."

As a number of other music industry and music press luminaries have already argued, the real issue (which Bragg argues is being 'smokescreened') is how the industry reacts to, and monetizes, P2P filesharing.

Peter Gabriel's Filter - a legal alternative?

One of those new ways of doing exactly this is being trialled by Peter Gabriel's new company The Filter.

Andy Semple, CMO at The Filter explained a little more about this new service to TechRadar.

"While we don't actually provide full track streaming on our website, we view our role as a vehicle of discovery to help people discover, among other things, music that they'll love. We provide 30 second samples of that music, and then give them the opportunity to download it from a legitimate source.

"Users can also share what they've discovered with friends, but not share the files. In this way, we believe we satisfy everyone's desires for P2P technology, without encouraging illegal filesharing."

"It's not really our place to comment on the likely success or otherwise of sending out informational letters to stop file sharing, but we are offering a legal alternative, which, having grown at a staggering rate since our launch in June, appears to be extremely popular."