Copyright pirates may find a letter in their email

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Under a new initiative, UK ISPs will send emails to subscribers caught downloading and sharing copyrighted material. 

The anti-piracy initiative, known as the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme, has been adopted by the four major providers and will begin later this month. Suspected pirates will receive an email which highlights their wrongdoing and points the user towards legal avenues of enjoying content. 

While subscribers who download copyright material directly will be difficult to track, it will be users of torrent sites who are most susceptible to having their IP address linked to specific files. The main target for authorities to prosecute are those who share copyrighted files initially, followed by those who help to 'seed' it to others, and finally, those who download content directly. 

Prosecuting offenders is difficult as judges in many cases have concluded that an IP address is not enough to conclude a person's wrongdoing. Someone visiting your house, a neighbour, or even a hacker, could have used your address to download a file. This has led to a decline in "speculative invoicing" which is a practice where law firms send letters to suspected infringers demanding a settlement payment, or face legal action. 

A proposed Digital Economy Act in 2010 took a more aggressive stance to offenders and would have required ISPs to first issue a warning to subscribers before threatening disconnection. The unreliable nature of IP addresses led to it being abandoned in favour of this new initiative which aims to educate consumers and point them at legal avenues rather than instill fear. 

Ensuring consumers feel a moral obligation to pay for content is more effective than fighting an "unwinnable" war against pirates. This also has a positive effect on ensuring content providers make it as simple as possible for consumers to legally obtain content, something which the most pirated TV show ever (Game of Thrones) initially suffered from as international fans struggled to find it via standard avenues such as iTunes. 

This strategy appears to be working as not only has music streaming revenues grown by 65 percent year-on-year, but digital video revenues have also exceeded DVD and Blu-Ray sales for the first time. 

What are your thoughts on this latest anti-piracy initiative? Let us know in the comments.

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