ISPs criticised for lenient stance on illegal downloads

Illegal download

Moves to combat online film and music piracy with the help of the ISP community have been criticised for being too lenient.

The big four ISPs - BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin Media are close to striking a deal with the BPI and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) to clamp down on individuals who illegally download music and films online.

As part of this, repeat offenders will receive "educational" letters from their ISPs that will reportedly point them in the direction of sites offering legal download services.

Individuals will receive a maximum of four such alerts, in the form of either a written letter or email, but they will face no further action from their ISP after this point.

The ISPs will only be allowed to send out 2.5 million of these warnings per year, although this number is expected to go up if other ISPs decide to join the scheme.

The first letters are expected to be sent out next year.

According to a report on the BBC, the original draft proposals suggested these letters should warn people who repeatedly download illegal content about the legal implications of their actions.

The BPI and MPA had also originally requested access to a database listing details about repeat offenders, so that they could pursue legal action against them.

However, the final draft of the proposals which have been four years in the making contain no mention of either of these measures.

In a statement, the MPA and BPI said: "Content creators and ISPs, with the support of government, have been exploring the possibility of developing an awareness programme that will support the continuing growth of legal creative content services, reduce copyright infringement and create the best possible customer experience online."

Andrew Goode, COO of ad tech provider Project Sunblock, hit out at the plans, claiming the ISPs' proposed letter writing campaign will not stop people downloading content illegally.

"Sending out letters to consumers won't come close to quelling the tide of illegal downloads from sites like the Pirate Bay. Letters issued by ISPs will be entirely unenforceable and without threats of punitive measures, like internet throttling, it simply won't work and, even worse, the initiative targets the wrong side of the illegal download exchange," he said.

"Instead of targeting consumers, what's needed is to cut off the flow of advertising revenue that fuels these copyright infringing sites. These sites are funded almost exclusively by ad revenue, which in many cases comes from some of the UK's biggest brand names."

Therefore, he wants to see more being done to cut the flow of ad revenue to the sites that facilitate illegal downloads.

"Advertisers must act in collaboration with the police and other enforcement bodies in order to make any real impact; otherwise, letters from ISPs will fall on deaf ears," he added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.