ISPs to start sending warnings to illegal downloaders

BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media will be sending what they consider 'educational' letters to users who they believe are carrying out internet piracy.

For years the entertainment industry has fought with ISPs to enforce much stricter controls on what people can download from the internet.

The music and film industry suffers due to the volume of people that download their copyrighted product from torrent websites rather than paying for it lawfully.

Finally Internet service providers look to be upping their game, sort of. The four providers mentioned above have been negotiating for four years and have finally come up with this: those who are caught continually downloading copyrighted content illegally will be sent an educational letter.

The copyright holders from the film and music industry will be able track to what you are downloading on file sharing networks under the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP).

The recorded IP addresses will then be sent back to the ISP who will send out the warning letter, the first of which will be sent in 2015.

A broadband user can receive a maximum of four letters according to the deal, but it hasn't yet been made clear what will happen if the user is still illegally downloading after the fourth letter.

How successful this is going to to be is up for debate. Letters will not really scare the avid pirates away from getting their free content, it might put a few off, but the hardcore downloaders are likely to find a way to hide their ISP addresses from the copyright holders.

Also they should probably make it clear whether it is four strikes and then your internet is cut off, or whether they just give up on trying to make people stop. If they can cut off the pirates internet access it might have some effect, but the drawback for the ISP is that they will lose money from the cut off user.

Harsher warning and punishments are needed if the ISPs really want to crack down on internet piracy. The entertainment industry could also help itself by not pricing the average consumer out of its products.