James Blunt has slammed ISPs for allowing web users to patrticipate in file-sharing, claiming they are "handling stolen goods".

Blunt, a former Army officer, also revealed he is backing plans by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson to enforce tougher penalties for illegal downloaders including disconnection from the web.

Mandelson heads the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which has taken over responsibility for implementing the schemes documented in the Digital Britain report earlier this year.

"At long last the Government is looking to legislate to protect the industry," Blunt said in a letter to The Times.

"Peter Mandelson is looking to engage the internet service providers who, in my opinion, handle stolen goods, and should take much more responsibility. How this legislation pans out, and if it goes through at all, is critical to the survival of the British music business."

However, not all musiciains share Blunt's views on illegal downloaders.

Tom Jones, Annie Lennox and Kate Nash are among the members of the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), which says filesharing plays a huge part in getting up and coming acts noticed.

The FAC told the newspaper: "The power to demand suspensions of accounts is only achievable through a wide-scale invasion of personal privacy which we believe would result in a dangerous reduction in the rights to protection of the individual".

The group said punishing file-sharers with internet suspension "would reduce the civil liberties" of all Brits, even though the move is designed to deter "a small minority of ‘egregious offenders" and would be "disproportionate and unenforceable".

However, it did say it believed "the creative work of artists should be paid for by those who enjoy it, and that whenever our music is used, royalties should be paid".

"The focus of our objection is the proposed treatment of ordinary music fans who download a few tracks so as to check out our material before they buy," the FAC added.

"For those of us who don't get played on the radio or mentioned in the music media - artists established and emerging - peer-to-peer recommendation is an important form of promotion."

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