UK changing approach to illegal torrents

Don't punish: educate.

Some of Britain's largest internet providers, in collaboration with the government and content creators, are changing how they deal with people illegally sharing entertainment online.

Instead of punishing you they'll send you letters trying to educate you and point you in the direction of legal, compelling alternatives.

As Virgin Media - participating in the scheme - put it: "We believe people will ultimately pay if they can get what they want, how they want, at a price that's fair to them."

Or as Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "It's about persuading the persuadable, such as parents who do not know what is going on with their net connection. [The voluntary copyright alert programme] is not about denying access to the internet. It's about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice."

Banding together under the banner Creative Content UK are ISPs BT, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, as well as entertainment institutions The Motion Picture Association (MPA) and the British Record Music Industry (BPI).

The first phase of the scheme - a significant multi-media awareness campaign, part-funded by the government - will happen before spring 2015.

After that, ISPs will start sending letters to unlawful downloaders. Apparently you can receive up to four letters a year but nothing will happen if you ignore them.

"Any alert will clearly recognise the account holder may not have engaged in copyright infringement themselves and we will be informative in tone, offering advice on where to find legitimate sources of entertainment content," promised Virgin Media.

However, and as TorrentFreak pointed out, this voluntary copyright alert programme (VCAP) does not rewrite any laws nor protect P2P file-sharing pirates from copyright infringement claims. Those things still very much exist. This is an additional scheme providing the companies involved with another opportunity to reach out and try to persuade people away from their pirating ways.

Encouraging compelling alternatives to pirated entertainment, rather than trying to fight it, is something Polish company CD Projekt - maker of The Witcher games and owner of GOG - has championed for a long time. The idea is to stop focusing on people who don't want to pay and start focusing on people who do.

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