Deal struck for online piracy warning letters in UK

A rather archaic sounding deal between the entertainment industry and ISPs has been struck that will see warning letters sent to those suspected of piracy.

The Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) is the result of almost four year’s worth of debating, the BBC reports.

Rights holders will, once they have identified the IP addresses of users suspected of downloading content illegally, contact ISPs with details of the infringement. The ISPs themselves will then check the allegations against their own net usage logs and, if they concur, send out either a physical letter or email to the account in question.

Records of which accounts are sent letters will be kept by ISPs for a year and rights holders will receive monthly action reports, although these won’t identify account holders individually. Indeed, individuals themselves won’t be accused owing to the fact that there is no way of proving who may or may not have been accessing a specific account at the time of infringement.

The number of letters that can be sent out has also been capped at 2.5m per year between the current participating ISPs, although this will increase as others join. Account holders will receive a maximum of four alerts, although these will "escalate in severity". No further action will be taken beyond that point.

The measures are significantly less severe than those originally demanded by the BPI and MPA who wanted the letters to contain details about possible punishments. They also requested access to databases of known illegal downloaders.

BT, Virgin, Sky and TalkTalk are already signed up, with others likely to follow. Each will receive 750 from rights holders or 75 per cent of the total cost to fund the action along witrh further annual payments of 75k

The first letters are expected to be sent out next year.

A joint BPI and MPA statement read: "Content creators and ISPs, with the support of government, have been exploring the possibility of developing an awareness programme that will support the continuing growth of legal creative content services, reduce copyright infringement and create the best possible customer experience online."

Most ISPs are already signed up to an agreement that sees access blocked to websites accused of sharing copyrighted material.

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