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Virgin, BPI Send Users Piracy Letters In ‘Education Campaign’

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Starting next week, Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) will begin sending letters to customers whose IP addresses have been used to distribute music illegally. It’s a more touchy-feely version of the three-strikes policy sought earlier by the BPI, because this is merely an “education campaign”. The BPI is sending to Virgin IPs it has identified pushing illegal tunes, and both the ISP and the music body will each send “informative letters”, both mailed by Virgin.

But this isn’t the controversial policy in to which the music biz wanted to strongarm ISPs. Instead of sending three warning letters before disconnecting transgressors outright, the letters contain: “Practical advice on how to prevent account misuse, links to legitimate sources of on-line music and information about the potential dangers of downloading files from unauthorised sources, including increased threats from viruses and spyware.” In other words, some of the internet nasties the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) highlighted recently as downsides to file-sharing.

Virgin Media told me: “We don’t want to accuse customers. We’re prepared to accept that the customer wasn’t aware they’re doing something unlawful – it may be a member of their family, or a neighbour if they left their WiFi open” What if customers continue to transgress after receiving the letter? “There’s no suggestion of suspension or disconnection. We will review the success of the campaign in a couple of months time or so.”

Neither party is naive here. The three-strikes policy proved too controversial to implement in one fell swoop. In this softly-softly approach, Virgin Media is showing faith in its consumers – but if, after several months, the BPI doesn’t see reductions in the amount of illegally-shared music going across it’s network, it may yet win support for its preferred, tougher measures.

2 Responses to “Virgin, BPI Send Users Piracy Letters In ‘Education Campaign’”

  1. The subject of unlawful file sharing has been growing in intensity over the years and the longer it goes on, i feel the harder it will be to monitor or contain. I think that the idea of suing an individual is not practical in this day and age because it a) gives music companies bad press and this could ultimately lead to even more decreased music sales and b) as unlawful an act as file sharing is, i doubt anyone has the money to pay companies compensation anyway.

    A three strikes rule is an effective idea if intergrated into this internet era in the right way. Some people debate whether this is an overly aggressive response to illegal filesharing and i tend to agree and disagree. I agree that, in a day and age where most of the world communicates via the internet, it may seem like depriving an individual of their human rights to disconnect the internet and i disagree because there is no doubt that some people out there use the internet exclusively for the purpose of obtaining files via p2p protocols.

    An idea that may work would be that when someone is caught of repeat offences they should have their internet connection disconnected for a month or two and during that time a contract could be drawn up between the ISP and consumer/customer. This contract would require the customer to remove all p2p applications from his/her computer and vow, in exchange for a reconnected internet service, to never redownload p2p apps and file share from the point of reconnection. This signed contract if breached would then open up the customer to litigation and customers would not have sufficient reason to fileshare again so doing so would indicate an intended breaking of copyright law.

    Its difficult to see where the future is heading regarding this issue but someone has to win in the end. Will we be facing a future of a 'free for all' regarding individuals obtaining copyrighted material or will millions of people be losing their internet connections in an age very dependent on the virtual world?

    Maybe the next few months-to a year will shed more light on this subject? We wil see.


  2. Hi Robert
    This is an interesting story, but we all know that the battle against illegal downloading is a tough one, and many things are worth a try. However I would much rather see energy put into to positive education about places where consumers can legally, freely and safely download music to help behaviour change eventually – we’re seeing consumers who value the ethics of downloading on our site significantly increase.

    This may be described as a ‘softly softly’ approach but I share your concerns about the implications of this a few months down the line. Although to be fair on the music industry they are making great strides in their oveall approach to digital adoption.

    Steve Purdham CEO –