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New UK anti-piracy scheme issues four warnings then...nothing

Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme to slap wrists of IP thieves

A new UK-wide anti-piracy agenda has come under fire after it was revealed that the 'Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme' will result in warnings for those illegally downloading content, but no actual sanctions.

The scheme is being promoted by Creative Content UK, a coalition of the content producers including the BPI and MPA, as well as various ISPs, and is supported by the UK government. Initially, the campaign will focus on a programme of education, with media campaigns highlighting the risks of downloading illegal content and the benefits of obtaining it officially. This stage will launch in early 2015, fronted by the content producers and partly funded by public funds.

The second stage puts the onus more heavily on the country's ISPs. Those internet providers participating in the scheme, which include Sky, Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk, will be issuing warning letters to those customers who are believed to obtaining content illegally. Those warnings, it seems, will be largely intended to make users aware of what they're doing, rather than threatening any legal action. reports indicate that a maximum of four of these letters will be issued per household, per year. No other action will be taken.

A press release from Virgin Media on the new scheme offers a 'customer friendly' and frankly optimistic stance on the problem.

"As part of this commitment," it reads, "we will alert our customers if unlawful file-sharing appears to have taken place on their broadband connection. Any alert will clearly recognise the account holder may not have engaged in copyright infringement themselves and we will be informative in tone, offering advice on where to find legitimate sources of entertainment content.

"We believe people will ultimately pay if they can get what they want, how they want, at a price that's fair to them. We have partnered with Spotify, encouraging customers to use the country's largest streaming music service, we have brought Netflix onto its first pay-TV platform and we offer an unbeatable choice of On Demand movies and TV shows. By embracing digital, the creative industries can realise significant benefits, reaching millions of people with new and innovative services."

The scheme was publicly launched at Spotify's London offices over the weekend, with Business Secretary Vince Cable and Culture Secretary Sajid Javid pledging 3.5m of public funds in support.

"Any alert will clearly recognise the account holder may not have engaged in copyright infringement themselves and we will be informative in tone, offering advice on where to find legitimate sources of entertainment content"

"Copyright is one of the foundations the UK economy is built on," said Javid. "Our creative industries contribute 8 million to the UK economy every hour and we must ensure these businesses can protect their investments.

"The alert programme shows industry working together to develop solutions to this threat to our creative industries. It will play a central role in raising awareness of copyright and pointing people toward legal ways to access content, and I welcome this effort."

"The creative industries in the UK are one of our brilliant global success stories. Yet too often that content is open to abuse by some who don't play by the rules," added Cable.

"That is why we are working with industry to ensure that intellectual property rights are understood and respected. Education is at the heart of this drive so people understand that piracy isn't a victimless crime - but actually causes business to fail, harms the industry and costs jobs."

Other aspects of the programme include the continued blocking of major piracy hubs such as torrent sites, restriction of ad revenues to those sites and more education. It's not known whether the new approach affects any existing laws.

It's not the first time that the UK's creative industries have attempted to attack the problem head-on. In 2010 the proposed Digital Economy Act was retired after a lengthy process of protests and legal wrangling, with considerable opposition coming from some major ISPs.

Although the UK's games industry has started to command more government attention of late, there is precious little mention of it in the official material surrounding the news, with a far bigger focus on music, TV and film.

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Latest comments (18)

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
I don't know whether to laugh or grimace slightly... Still not decided.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
@Darren
Then consider this your first warning. I am not sure for what, but that is not going to stop me.
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Robert McLachlan Game Designer 2 years ago
If anyone thinks this is a free ride, think again. If you look at the agreement it will actually make it easy for media companies to identify and take civil action against those they identify:
ISPs that issue subscribers with three letters within the space of a year would add the anonymous details of those customers to a 'copyright infringement list'. Rights holders would be able to request access to the list each month and could seek a court order obliging the ISPs to disclose the identity of the suspected infringers so that they can take legal action against them under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.
So media organisations get a list of persistent offenders, identified by themselves, with a nice bit of evidence to show a Judge - "Look your honour, he/she was sent three letters and still carried on!"
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Show all comments (18)
Paul Shirley Programmers 2 years ago
"with a nice bit of evidence to show a Judge" that clearly states they may not have done anything wrong themselves.

What could possibly go wrong?
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
@ Klaus

Nooooooo, I have been warned..... Oh wait! :D

One thing I have always been a little unsure on is how they look at streaming TV shows??

I say this because I like to catch up on TV shows every couple of weeks and stream the shows (I am sure I am not alone in doing this). This seems to be a grey area to me as you don't actually take the file and share it, you merely watch the show that you would have seen on TV anyway.
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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments2 years ago
Open minded on this - if it turns out sending letters at people has an effect, it might be worth it due to being much lower cost than any actual sanctions, plus being less of a PR risk?
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
I see this going the same way as taping TV shows on VHS or recording your favorite radio show on a C90 used to be treated.... Yes I am that old!

Common sense would dictate that you target individuals/groups who make money out of other peoples work, but the small fry who just watch some TV shows or the odd film are not really worth going after. Sure, you could argue that without the people downloading films then there would be no market, but I think they are looking at it totally wrong.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 22nd July 2014 1:35pm

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Dan Pearson European Editor, GamesIndustry.biz2 years ago
It's interesting to see Sky on there. As an ISP they might have some resistance to the responsibility, but as a content owner they suffer a huge deal. That said, the makers of Game of Thrones have publicly acknowledged that piracy has massively contributed to the show's popularity.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
@Dan

I agree with your point about GoT and it wouldn't be the cultural phenomenon it is without the piracy aspect. Now in no way am I condoning piracy, but surely the content providers should look at this and say "Ok, we can lose customer faith and trust by going all Rambo against the little people, ooorrrrrr we could try to utilise these sites to actually gain support and fanbase for a product'.

I know the situation isn't black and white, but it would make sense for them to get something out of the current landscape instead of fighting against the inevitability of the future. I mean as more physical products get converted to digital only, there is a far greater threat of piracy. And the layman could estimate that the massively lower overheads they now enjoy came at the price of product security.

Sometimes you can't have your cake and eat it.
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Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer 2 years ago
I think i need more details before judging.
If the goal is to actually educate people on the harm they are doing by resorting to piracy, then it's a lot less stupid than it may seem at first glance.
A lot of people just know it's wrong but they don't really know the full extent of the damage they can cause to content creators, which leads them to think that what they're doing is not really a big deal after all: it's a little forgivable crime.
Also, while there will always be those horribly selfish, I like to believe they're a minority. After all, out of personal experience, I've seen that people are more likely to comply if asked nicely as opposed to faint threats of legal repercussions.

That said, i don't think this will contribute much to reduce the piracy phenomenon.
The real way to win this battle is to make the genuine material more conveniently accessible than the pirated counterpart.
About 90% of the people i know personally who use pirated content claims that they resort to piracy not because it's free, but because it's readily available.

In fact, i'd bring Steam as an examples to support this. We all know it's a DRM, but this is not how most users see it. To them it's a reliable platform with a very straightforward Pay-Download-Play service.

A counter-example would be my not-so-uncommon troubles with region locks (in the last 7 years I moved to 4 different countries). If i ever share the horror tales of when i tried to buy some DLCs with my billing address, internet IP address and the the region of the original game being all different, most of my friend look at me like they would stare at an alien from mars and ask: "Why don't you just torrent the frigging thing?"

Free is just an added bonus, but it's being easy and accessible what really makes pirated content so popular.
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Daniel Trezub QA Analyst, GameLoft2 years ago
Well, you are pirating anyway, because you do not have the IP owner's consent to watch this stream. And you are skipping all the nice commercials you would have to see if you were watching it on TV, so no money to the IP owner at all.
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Daniel Trezub QA Analyst, GameLoft2 years ago
"highlighting the risks of downloading illegal content and the benefits of obtaining it officially" I would like to see how they plan to do this. For the Average Joe downloading a torrent or streaming his favourite series, he sees no risk, and he sees no advantage in having to stick to the local TV broadcast schedule or to wait until this season comes out in DVD or BD. If they can shift this focus from the media corporations point of view to the customer point of view, I will tip my hat.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 2 years ago
Steam has decimated the piracy scene in the west just has Netflix has. Many games are not even being cracked anymore.

And if your anyone but Juniper Research you predict sales of the PC platform will grow over the next three years which will eat into even more piracy.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 23rd July 2014 1:41am

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Any dedicated pirate would be using encrypted anonymous proxy servers for access, (piratebay offer their own service for example) making these letters only likely to ever reach the most amateur of pirates, better companies focus on making compelling reasons for people to want to pay then perusing legislation and schemes which will never reach the worst offenders, not to mention none of these companies individually or cumulatively have the money to sue more than a tiny proportion of pirates, it would bankrupt the lot of them to even reach 5% or frankly even 5% of 5% and most of them have no money to go after.

If companies spent more time creating innovative products and services instead of the legal and scare tactics they actually attempted to combat piracy they could have made much more money and lost far less, if they lost anything to piracy at all and simply didn't fall foul of changing trends and failure to keep pace with consumer desires and attitudes, whilst dreaming of pirate gold that never existed, not to mention wasting piles of cash going after said mythical treasure.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
Sounds what you would do in a kindergarten to those kinds stealing other kids' toys.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 2 years ago
This should be handled Warhammer 40K style : burn the pirates, kill the hackers, cleanse the torrents.

Seriously: piracy is a service problem not a legal one.
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Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer 2 years ago
@Tom
That would be a very short-sighted approach which would likely get the exact opposite result of what you'd be hoping to achieve.
It'd trigger a sense of rebellion in people, with pirates feeling more and more justified in doing what they're doing.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
I have to admit, over the last several years I have come to agree with Virgin's perception: that people don't seem to mind paying the right price for quality content if they can get to it.

My former ISP blocked every form of legitimate video on demand to my area for a period of several years, claiming it put too much strain on the tiny, noisy, over-subscribed copper line to my area. I was quite literally fighting to give someone money to watch certain shows and they were stopping me. I eventually bought DVDs but they were cursed with unskippable trailers for some rubbish film about a dog. ("Here is a dog, Isn't he nice? The dog and the boy are friends. Oh noes! The Man is going to kill the dog! Ahh, he escapes. Happy ending. Rainbow. Rainbow. And now the film about violent murder and cannibalism you paid for.")
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