In an Orwellian twist to the evergreen problem of internet piracy, record labels are asking British Internet providers – such as BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB and Talk Talk – to keep track of their customers’ activity with a view to compiling a database which could then be used to identity prolific offenders.

Ed SheeranAccording to the BBC, Ed Sheeran is the most downloaded artist in the U.K, illegally

Recently, these same service providers blocked some rather popular websites for downloaders: torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and Kick Ass Torrents, although they’re still accessible via proxies. Now they might to sign up to this voluntary code to aide the policing of illegal downloading.

In the U.K, 280m music tracks were digitally pirated in the UK, according to The Guardian. 52m television shows, 29m films, 18m ebooks and 7m computer software or games files were also pirated. Breaking Bad – AMC’s popular meth drama – recently returned for season five, but was made available on Netflix soon after the American broadcast in an attempt to dissuade people from downloading it.

A spokeswoman for TalkTalk said: "We are involved in discussions about measures to address illegal file-sharing and ultimately would like to reach a voluntary agreement. However our customers' rights always come first and we would never agree to anything that could compromise them."

Bryan CranstonBryan Cranston's Breaking Bad is another popular term for downloaders

This particular spokeswoman was referencing the Data Protection act, which states that companies can’t retain information about a customer unless it is for commercial purposes, i.e., marketing. Collecting information about their customers to be used in a court of law could be considered illegal.

Emma Hutchinson, a Virgin Media spokeswoman, said: "Music and film companies are speaking to broadband providers about how to address illegal file-sharing but what they're currently proposing is unworkable."