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UPDATE2 UK ISPs to Send First Internet Piracy Warning Letters this Month

Posted Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 (8:29 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 8,588)
piracy internet UK STOP sign

ISPreview.co.uk can today confirm that the first Internet piracy warning letters (aka – “subscriber alerts” or “educational emails“) will this month begin to be sent by all of the biggest broadband ISPs. The “alerts” will be issued to those users who are suspected of engaging in online copyright infringement.

The scheme, which forms part of the Government fostered Creative Content UK (CCUK) initiative that has been gestating for a very long time (here and here), is “voluntarily” supported by BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband.

As part of this the ISPs have agreed to adopt a Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), which aims to “send millions of educational notices” to those detected by copyright owners as infringing their content via “unlawful” Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File-Sharing (e.g. BitTorrent) networks (these networks will often expose your IP address to the public Internet and Rights Holders can spot that).

Unlike the bullying letters sent by dubious copyright protection firms (aka – “speculative invoicing“), the “alerts” issued by this new system will NOT contain any threats or demands for money and should only act as a tool for educating customers about the legal alternatives (Netflix and Spotify etc.). The idea is to discourage future infringement, as opposed to punishment.

A Spokesperson for Virgin Media told ISPreview.co.uk:

“ISPs will not carry out any monitoring of their subscribers’ activity. Right holders will not have access to any personal information about alleged infringers. Right holders will merely flag to participating ISPs individual IP addresses (in “Copyright Infringement Reports” – or CIRs) that have been detected and verified where those IP addresses have been used to upload and share infringing content using ISPs’ networks. Rights holders will do this by using proven electronic scanning technologies which will be searching publicly available information.

No CIR will be sent to an ISP until it has been confirmed by the right holders that copyright infringement has taken place – and no educational email will be sent to a subscriber until the IP address in the applicable CIR that “triggers” the email can be matched to the correct active subscriber account. The entire programme is fully compliant with applicable laws and regulations including the Data Protection Act 1998 – and with best practices as published by the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office).”

The CCUK approach appears to recognise that IP address based evidence is far from perfect (even accurate data only identifies the bill payer and on a shared network they might not be the perpetrator). Many people may not even realize that their account has been used to share such files (e.g. children using the connection for unlawful purposes) and thus it can be very difficult to prove who is actually the guilty party (previous court cases have failed), thus the voluntary alerts system was born.

The new programme forms part of a wider package of initiatives by CCUK that are required to address online copyright infringement, such as working with advertisers and payment processors to cut off revenue to “illegal” sites, encouraging search engines to play a more active role by not directing consumers to sites that are known to offer infringing content and of course the continued blocking of piracy sites via court order.

Outside of this particular initiative there are other methods that Rights Holders can use (e.g. the “speculative invoicing” approach) should they wish to take legal action against users or send demands for money, but that decision would be in the hands of the individual Rights Holders and remains entirely separate from this campaign.

All or at least some of the big four ISPs will imminently begin to send the first alerts within the next 2-3 weeks. Sadly none of the ISPs could tell us how much the system is costing them to implement and there is a lot of speculation about the potential effectiveness of such a scheme.

On the other hand the UK music industry appears to be doing well (here) and the rise in affordable legal alternatives is clearly having a positive impact, not least by pulling people away from piracy. However the new approach seems unlikely to discourage younger Internet users (i.e. those who have no money to spend on media in the first place) or hard-core pirates, many of whom can simply mask their connection online (VPN, Proxy etc.) to avoid detection.

UPDATE 12th Jan 2017

The BBC has done a follow-up to our story and managed to get an extract from a sample ISP “alert” (see below), which we believe is linked to this: Get It Right from a Genuine Site.

Sample Piracy “Alert” Email / Letter

Get It Right from a Genuine Site’ has got in touch with us.

Get it Right is a government-backed campaign acting for copyright owners who think their content’s been shared without their permission.

It looks like someone has been using your broadband to share copyrighted material (that means things like music, films, sport or books).

And as your broadband provider, we have to let you know when this happens.

[List of the content in question]

[Further guidance on how to stop the activity]

UPDATE 25th Jan 2017

Apparently there will be a 20 day period of grace between letters, so if you’re a repeat infringer then you won’t see another message until 20 days after the first and so forth. Some ISPs may try to spin this into a kind of threat, but at present there’s still no punishment and thus it’s really more of an annoyance.

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19 Responses
  1. Chris

    Not sure that I see a point to this? Is it really going to stop piracy – I don’t think so. People already know about Spotify and Netflix. I am not sure of the balance of people using bittorrent vs newsgroups (I don’t see how this will capture people using news groups) but either way it has no teeth. The one case I can see this working is where a child is using bittorent without a parent’s knowledge and the parent disproves – probably an edge case. I don’t know how to stop piracy by the way, I don’t really think it is possible. Part of the issue is too many content providers, many people don’t want to sign up to Netflix, Now TV, Amazon all at the same time but still want to watch the hit shows from each. It also does not help that a lot of hardware platforms don’t support all providers and are biased towards one or another (Roku is the exception). Personally I have signed up to Netflix and Spotify but what to do when the new series of Game of Thrones comes out…..


    • Idiotic

      Piracy will always exist. If I wasn’t so lazy I’d probably have to resort to it given Netflix have blocked me from accessing UK content on a UK Netflix account. Idiotic really.

      Thank goodness Amazon Prime Instant Video works fine.

  2. John

    Now TV will have it – there is also IPTV on ebay which offers every channel under the sun and every box set under the sun for a silly low price, just got t have a smart TV

  3. Darren

    Are they sending letters or emails to people

    • I believe at some of the ISPs it may depend upon whether the account owner is paying extra for paper billing. As such the majority of people will probably get an email, assuming it isn’t scooped up by a spam filter first.

  4. Darren

    I don’t no why ISP agreed to this the music and movie industry are doing well in terms of streaming services how many people will be threatened with paying somes of money

    • A few short years ago the Government essentially told ISPs that if they didn’t agree to do something voluntarily then they’d force something even stricter on them. But under this approach the ISPs won’t pass any customer details to Rights Holders, so if a copyright holder wants to extract money then they’ll have to do it the old fashioned / expensive way via court orders (NPO) and bullying settlement letters from third-party organisations.

  5. John

    I download/upload all my fav shows by P2P- And when I do I also share my IP address with 34,000 other people across the world.. Best of luck 😉

  6. Darren

    Do you use a vpn

  7. Michael

    Hooray for seedboxes and encryption

  8. AP

    Hurrah for Private trackers!

  9. Darren

    Seedboxes, encryption and Private trackers are all well and good, however, you just miss out on all the free bog roll.

  10. Hitherto unkown levels of WTFery, apart from, you know, Brexit and Trump

    Zen are also doing this. My mother got a notice in December 2016 from them saying that a movie studio has complained that some TV episode was torrented from her IP.
    She’s 72 and the IP is used for a medical practice and patients get free use of the WiFi.

  11. I was a victim of hate crimes by CSIS/RCMP/CSEC of illegal spying, illegal detention, bill C-51, human rights, mental health, psychological manipulation/biochemical modifications living with a major disability unable to work for over 30 years due to diagnosis created by media, local police, national security agencies, Canadians, private sector and government. I was subjected to overt, systemic and institutional racism my whole life as well as sadistic torture.
    I was approached by RCMP in 1987 and they told me that I was qualified to apply and become a CSIS Agent. So I did in 1988 and my life has been nothing but a nightmare for over 30 years. I filed a complaint with SIRC in 1989 the watchdog for CSIS and they told me that my file is top secret. I want a public inquiry and financial compensation. I want justice.

    • Anonymous not the group I just didn't want to put my name

      Oh make a film about your life release it for free we can all watch it then we won’t need to download it via a dodgy site.
      That’s sticking it to the man and your message is out.
      Best of luck ..

  12. Anonymous

    Looking at the statistics vpn demand has gone up really high since this has been announced,So basically the government are helping in there own little way with out even knowing it 🙂

    Remember folks use a VPN

  13. Anonymous

    Tribler doesn’t need a vpn it has a built in tor network dedicated to file sharing.

  14. Old man

    I’m downloading TV shows, films and watching Sky Sports on Mobdro. I’m depriving the foreign shareholders of my ISP with their tax avoidance schemes, overseas film companies, etc., and Rupert bloody Murdoch of a few quid.
    We’re not governed by Westminster but by commerce and foreign investors.

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