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Illegal file-sharers brace for pleading letters from music and film industries

BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk are expected to start sending out polite ‘stop being naughty’ letters to users suspected of illegal file-sharing in 2015.

The UK’s four biggest ISPs are expected to agree to the new Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) and send educational letters to customers they believe are illegally downloading content.

The first ‘alerts’ will be sent out next year, but according to BBC reports the deal has been watered down, with the entertainment industry getting few of the tough measures it had requested.

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In a joint statement, the British Phonographic Industry and the Motion Picture Association said: “Content creators and ISPs, with the support of government, have been exploring the possibility of developing an awareness programme that will support the continuing growth of legal creative content services, reduce copyright infringement and create the best possible customer experience online.”

The BPI, which represents music companies, and the MPA, representing film producers, have been in closed-door talks with ISPs for four years since the passing of the 2010 Digital Economy Act.

The industry bodies wanted letters to inform repeat offenders about possible punitive measures against them, and access to a database of known illegal downloaders.

ISPs objected to passing on customers’ details because of conflicts with the Data Protection Act, although they will have to keep a record for up to a year of which customers have received alerts. However, this record has yet to be approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Instead the letters will point illegal downloaders to legal sites to access content, but the ISPs have set a combined limit of 2.5 million letters, and no subscriber will receive more than four letters. 

And while the letters will use more severe language, they will not contain any threats of disconnection or throttling because there’s no legal mechanism to achieve this. The scheme will run for three years, under review.


In order to fund the initiative, rights holders have agreed to pay £750,000 to each ISP to set up VCAP, or 75 per cent of their total costs, whichever is smaller. 

The MPI and MPA hope smaller ISPs will join the programme later, but ISPA, which represents them has been excluded from discussions so far.

Image: clurr/Flickr


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