UK ISPs Will Have To Issue Alerts To Suspected Pirates

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Customers who infringe copyright will start getting warning letters in 2015, but there are no legal consequences

BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media will start sending warning letters to customers suspected of copyright infringement, as part of the long-overdue deal between copyright protection agencies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

According to the BBC, the letters will warn online pirates that what they are doing is illegal, and offer information on legitimate content sources.

However, they will not contain threats of legal action, and ISPs will not have to maintain an open database of the most dedicated pirates – something originally requested by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

Pending approval from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the first letters will reach recipients in 2015.

Old Pirate © Jeanne McRight Shutterstock 2012Raising awareness

According to the latest draft of the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) seen by the BBC, any one customer can only get four alerts – and even though they are expected to feature language that will “escalate in severity”, they will contain no threats of legal action.

After sending out four alerts, no further action will be taken by the ISP.

The information on the recipients of VCAP letters will be stored by ISPs for up to a year, however it will not be accessible to copyright enforcement agencies.

There’s also an annual cap on the number of customers that can be contacted through the programme – once the four ISPs have sent out 2.5 million letters, they can issue no more. This cap is expected to be adjusted in the future.

Most of the cost of the programme will be covered by the rightsholders, who will offer up to £750,000 to each of the four participating ISPs to set it up, and make annual contributions of up to £75,000 towards administration costs.

Smaller ISPs are expected to join VCAP sometime in the coming months.

Proponents of decisive copyright enforcement say the proposals have been watered down and will not have an effect on online piracy. BBC suggests that copyright holders could push for more aggressive action if the educational approach is shown as ineffective.

Earlier this year UK minister for Intellectual Property James Younger  aid that that intellectual property rights were needed to support technological innovation as the cornerstone of the economic recovery, and warned that their enforcement would get tougher.

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