The UK is working to educate internet users on the illegality of piracy


A new scheme aimed at redeeming the UK’s illegal file-sharers from their law-breaking ways will see emails sent out to persistent offenders from next year. The government-brokered Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme, agreed between ISPs and organisations representing content creators, hopes to educate web users, alerting them to file-sharing illegality. Offenders will receive up to four emails a year under the scheme, but no further action will be taken if they send those warnings directly to the trash can and continue illegally downloading music, movies and books. BT, TalkTalk, Sky, and Virgin have already signed up for the Vcap scheme with several smaller ISPs expected to do so soon.

People in the UK who persistently pirate music and movies will soon start getting emails warning them that their actions are illegal. The warnings are part of a larger scheme that aims to educate people about copyright and legal ways to enjoy digital content. Starting next year, up to four warnings annually will be sent to households suspected of copyright infringement. But if people ignore the warnings, no further action will be taken. The warning system is the result of four years’ wrangling between internet service providers (ISPs) and industry bodies representing music and movie-makers. The original enforcement regime was outlined in the Digital Economy Act 2010 and called for persistent pirates to have their net access cut off after a series of warnings. In addition, rights holders wanted warning letters to mention the potential penalties people would face for copyright infringement and access to a database of known illegal file-sharers. The years of talks brokered by the government have led to the creation of the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (Vcap) that uses warnings via email or post. The UK’s biggest ISPs – BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky – have signed up to Vcap. Many smaller ISPs are expected to join later.

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