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Internet pirates to be directly contacted by ISPs following new rights deal

‘Educational’ letters warning of legal consequences will be sent to users.

By Vinod

Internet users suspected of engaging in illegal downloads will soon receive direct warnings from their ISPs ordering them to halt their activities.

A breakthrough deal signed with the main players in the film and music industries, will see BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media begin to send ‘educational’ letters or emails, known as "alerts" to customers believed to be illegal activity.

Set to start in 2015, individuals will receive a maximum of four alerts, whose language will escalate in severity, but will not contain threats or any mention of potential consequences for the users. After the fourth alert, however, no further action will be taken.

The BBC reports that the final edition of the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (Vcap), is ‘considerably weaker’ than what was originally asked for by rights holders from the BPI, which represents the British music industry, and the Motion Picture Association (MPA), which covers film.

The BPI and MPA had originally suggested the letters should tell repeat infringers about possible punitive measures, and also wanted access to a database of known illegal downloaders, opening the possibility of further legal action against individuals.

However, following almost four years of debate between the two sides, the final draft of the Vcap contains neither of these key measures.

Instead, letters sent to those suspected of illegal downloads will need to be "educational" in tone, and promote "an increase in awareness" of legal downloading services.

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The deal is expected to be finalised soon, with the two rights holder groups agreeing to pay £750,000 towards each internet service provider (ISP) to set up the system, or 75% of the total costs, whichever is smaller. A further £75,000 (or 75% of total costs) will also be paid each year to cover administration costs.

The remaining UK ISPs are likely to join the agreement at a later stage, the BBC said.


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