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UK ISPs, rights holders set up 'alert' programme to combat piracy

The BBC has seen details of a deal struck between the Motion Picture Association, the British music industry lobby BPI and UK internet service providers to combat piracy. Per this agreement, BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin Media will send "educational" letters to customers believed to be downloading content illegally, starting in 2015.

Rights holders had lobbied for considerably stronger measures including a warning to repeat infringers about possible punitive actions - slowing internet speeds or cutting people off altogether. Furthermore, they wanted access to a database of known illegal downloaders.

The BBC says the leaked agreement would allow rights holders to call for the "rapid implementation" of the Digital Economy Act, and all the strict measures that come with it, if this 'alert' system does not have a big effect on piracy.

This agreement - Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (Vcap) - is the result of four years of negotiations. Rights holders have agreed to pay £750,000 towards each internet service provider to set up the system, or 75% of the total costs, whichever is smaller. A further £75,000 will be paid each year to cover administration costs.

How the system will work

- Rights holders identify IP addresses of devices or locations they believe to be downloading files illegally. This is done through a variety of methods, including "listening in" to traffic on Bittorrent networks - a common practice

- A "Copyright Infringement Report", known as a CIR, will be sent to the ISP involved. It will contain the IP address as well as the date and time the alleged infringement took place

- The ISP will then match that report to a customer account it knows was connected to the internet from that IP address at the time of the download

- It will then send out an alert to that customer about the behaviour, either as an email or a physical letter

- Identifying users in this way is not an exact science. Sometimes, it will be unable to determine which customer account was being used at the time.

- Furthermore, in the alerts, no individual person will be directly accused - as a single IP address could be used by several people at a time, or even, to use one example, by someone using a neighbour's wifi without their knowledge.

Source: Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme

Story filed 10.05.14

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