ISPs to send out “educational emails” to suspected pirates

If you use BitTorrent to pirate copyrighted content, your ISP may soon send you an email. No, the letter won’t be a court summons, nor will it be a threat to disconnect you if you don’t repent. Instead, it will be an “educational email” designed to point you to a legitimate source for your content where you can pay for the privilege.

ISPs to send out “educational emails” to suspected pirates

The Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme will come into force later this month, according to ISPreview, which got additional information from Virgin Media as to how the scheme will work. In short, it’s significantly less heavy-handed than past antidotes to the problem, which included “speculative invoicing” (a nice way of describing lawyers directly fining those accused of wrongdoing) or the disconnections of repeat offenders suggested by the draconian Digital Economy Act 2010.

Rather than trying to elicit payment or threaten those suspected of pirating content, the emails will simply link to legitimate sources for the content, alongside educational anti-piracy resources. The emails are designed to prevent future misbehaviour, rather than to punish for what subscribers may or may not have already done.pirates_to_get_isp_warning_letters

According to a Virgin Media spokesperson, under the voluntary measures, it won’t be up to the ISPs to monitor their subscribers’ activity, and copyright owners won’t see any identifiable information from the alleged infringer. “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,” the spokesperson said. “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 spokesperson continued. “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 first of these emails will be sent out within the next two to three weeks, apparently, and the four biggest ISPs in the UK – BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky – are all signed up to the scheme. How effective it will be in dissuading pirates remains to be seen, but it’s a big step down from the unreliable but considerably more intimidating methods of the recent past.

Images: Hasan Kabalak and Adam Carter used under Creative Commons

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