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Most Illegal Broadband File Sharers Not Dissuaded by UK ISP Warning Letters

Posted: 10th Jun, 2009 By: MarkJ
The latest 2009 Digital Entertainment Survey of 1,500 UK consumers conducted by Wiggin, a media law group, has revealed that just 33% of illegal file sharing (P2P) downloader’s would stop their activity after receiving a warning letter from a broadband ISP. The figure is lower than the 70% reported in last year’s survey because the question was re-formed to ask how people would react if the letter contained "no specific threat" of action against them.

The final Digital Britain report is already expected to make sending 'Warning Letters' to those suspected of being involved with illegal downloading a requirement for all UK ISPs. However the issue of dealing with repeat offenders, especially given the fallibility of IP based methods of identification, has made finding an absolute solution very difficult.

Rights holders have long warned that warning letters alone would not be enough because suspected abusers could simply choose to ignore them and carry on with their activity. To that end ISPs would need a stick that they could wave at suspected abusers, such as disconnection or service limits.

To date the "three strikes" idea of disconnecting consumers from their ISP has been widely panned. The final Digital Britain report is now expected to recommend some form of service restriction (e.g. slower speeds or blocking of P2P services) as a more palatable alternative (original news). But that has problems too.

Charles Dunstone, CEO of TalkTalk , recently said (here): "If you try speed humps or disconnections for peer-to-peer, people will simply either disguise their traffic or share the content another way. It is a game of Tom and Jerry and you will never catch the mouse. The mouse always wins in this battle and we need to be careful that politicians do not get talked into putting legislation in place that, in the end, ends up looking stupid."

It now seems clear that, come 16th June, the government’s final Digital Britain report will propose some degree of service restriction for dealing with repeat offenders. It's believed that the precise method will still have to be agreed between the industry and ISPs.

However such measures alone are not enough and the same survey also wanted to know how consumers would react to new commercial models for distributing content. The answer, according to a Paid:ContentUK summary, is reasonably positive:

Just over a quarter of respondents would add an extra £25 a month for unlimited music downloads, or £5 a month for 50 tracks; 34% would pay £1 for unlimited streaming music. Nearly half would add £3 a month extra for HD TV/movies and £8 for unlimited VOD TV. EMR packaged up these various figures to say consumers would be prepared to pay an average £34 a month for an ISP service with a variety of entertainment options - more than their current average £20.

The survey also noted that most consumers would be willing to pay to download and watch new movies, which is something we'd like to see too as a modern alternative to cinema releases. The industry should be doing more to embrace modern digital platforms like this rather than sticking to old methods. Education is also critically important, with past surveys showing that many illegal music downloader’s aren’t even aware that what they are doing is breaking the law.
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