As part of a new deal being struck with both BPI, which
represents the British music industry, and the Motion Picture
Association, internet providers will soon be sending out "alerts"
to potential internet pirates. Those illegally downloading content
from the web or torrent sites could start receiving their letters
as early as 2015.
The deal has been in the works for years, according to an article by the BBC however, the measures
outlined BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are
considerably weaker than originally asked for. When the debate
began, almost four years ago, it was suggested that the letters
should outline the possible punishments to repeat offenders. A
database of known illegal downloader's would also be kept, making
further legal action against individuals much easier to carry
However, the final draft of the new Voluntary Copyright Alert
Programme, Vcap, contains no trace of these measures. Instead the
letters will be much more "educational" in tone "promoting an
increase in awareness" of legal
The cost of cutting piracy
Rights holders have agreed to pay £750,000 to each internet
service provider or 75% of total costs if that ends up being
smaller, to set up the system. A further £75,000 will also be paid
each year, or 75% of total cost, to cover administration costs.
Every month they will receive a break down of how many alerts have
been sent out, but only ISPs will know the identities of the
customers involved. A cap has also been set, so between all four
ISPs no more than 2.5 million alerts can be send out in a year.
The deal is now ready to be finalised pending approval from the
Information Commissioner's Office for the way data from customers
receiving alerts is collected. The remaining ISP's, including Plusnet and Primus, are expected to join the
agreement at a later stage, this will also increase the yearly cap
on alerts sent out.
How the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme will work
- Rights holders, such as the
Motion Picture Association, will identify IP addresses, essentailly
the thumb print of every device, that they believe to be
downloading files illegally. This will be done through various
methods, including the common practice of "listening in" to traffic
on Bittorrent networks.
- A Copyright Infringement
Report, or CIR, will be sent to the right ISP. So if you are
downloading content using Virgin Media broadband, your network will
receive a CIR containing the date and time the download took place
and the IP address of the device you used.
- The ISP will then match the
IP address to the customer. So in our example, Virgin Media will
look at where that IP address was being used at the time of the
download and pinpoint your location.
- At this point the alert will
be sent out, either as an email or an actual physical
Unfortunately identifying people this way is not an exact
science, as there is no way of telling who was actually using the
device to download content at the time. For instance, a guest might
have used your PC to illegally download a movie or the neighbours
could be downloading pirated music using your WiFi. This is the
main reason no single person will be directly accused in the