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Virgin Media To Spy On & Threaten Downloaders 349

Mike writes "Virgin Media, the UK's largest cable-modem provider, has decided that it will spy on its users to protect record industry profits. Starting next week Virgin Media will send letters to thousands of households where they suspect music is either being downloaded or illegally shared. The campaign is a joint venture between Virgin Media and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents the major record labels. The BPI ultimately wants Internet companies to implement a 'three strikes and out' rule to warn and ultimately disconnect the estimated 6.5 million customers whose accounts are (supposedly) used for regular criminal activity. In other words, you download a few songs and they'll come along and cut off the one wire that delivers freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly."
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Virgin Media To Spy On & Threaten Downloaders

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  • by drDugan ( 219551 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @11:12AM (#23709771) Homepage
    Good thing there are still some competition on who provides Internet service. I expect that this behavior would have the obvious effect that users will simply use different providers: providers that focus on their customers and not other business' interests.

    Here in the San Francisco area, for example, there are locally owned ISP companies that have focused on high quality service and support and have grown and down well while providing DSL at faster speeds and lower cost than the larger providers.

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @11:15AM (#23709829)
    Until intellectual property law is forced to conform to the same expectations that private property has, it will never have universal legitimacy in the culture the way that physical property has (except with thieves and Socialists; I repeat myself...)

    A modest proposal:

    1) Outlaw implied contracts. When I buy a movie, CD, program, etc., unless I sign something in writing, prior to the purchase, any "contract" should be null and void, and any effort to enforce it should be criminal activity.

    2) Copyright infringement by sharing copyrighted data is treated as theft, with goods valued for the purpose of assessment under existing property laws at current market value. Copyright infringement by accident, like posting a single picture you weren't supposed to on your site is not a crime at all or at the worst gets you a slap on the wrist.

    3) Copyright holders cannot restrict how any one copy of their work is used by buyers, except to make them respect the artificial scarcity of copyright law. Meaning, if I want to resell iPhones with jail-broken OSs and tons of apps, Apple cannot legally interfere with my customers' enjoyment of their iPhone and its OS anymore than Honda could interfere with my customers if I were selling modified racing civics (except to cut off their warranty).
  • by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @11:20AM (#23709939)

    From TFA:

    If you use peer-to-peer applications to copy or distribute copyrighted material such as music, films and software, and do so without paying royalties, you are almost certainly infringing the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

    I think the real question here is how Virgin intends to "catch" subscribers. Will any form of P2P traffic result in a letter? TFA, while full of feel-good rhetoric about damages to our vibrant economy, is scant on details in this regard.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @11:40AM (#23710271)
    The UK government has already said to ISPs "Stop your users downloading illegally or we'll pass legislation forcing you to":

    http://news.zdnet.co.uk/communications/0,1000000085,39290371,00.htm [zdnet.co.uk]

    http://www.techwatch.co.uk/2008/02/25/uk-isp%E2%80%99s-must-stop-illegal-downloads/ [techwatch.co.uk]

    (You've got to admire that approach to democracy out of sheer morbid fascination, really, haven't you. It amounts to "You're not doing anything illegal, but if you don't stop doing it we'll make it illegal!")

    Virgin Media haven't really got any choice here, and I think we'll see similar announcements regarding other ISPs within the next 6-12 months.
  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @11:40AM (#23710277)
    Are you talking about the politician-buying, 95-year-copyright-term corporate assholes or the people who are ignoring their asinine little power grab?

    There's more than one "criminal" here.
  • I agree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Odder ( 1288958 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @11:41AM (#23710307)

    but you must understand that the attack on P2P is really an attack on free press and has the same purpose as the other, more serious violations. The point is to shut down political opposition, which in turn threaten established economic interests. All weapons are being used to identify, intimidate, harass, silence and eliminate opposition. Cutting a person's net access is the modern equivalent of exile. It will happen to those identified by wiretaps. Those that persist face the threat of search, arrest and torture. If we allow those in power to consolidate these tools, we will not be able to remove them.

  • by zotz ( 3951 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @11:47AM (#23710393) Homepage Journal
    "I don't get the difference between downloading with P2P and seeing a sidewalk sale and walking off with CDs"

    Do you see the difference between singing a song on a street corner with a hat on the ground and seeing a sidewalk sale and walking off with CDs?

    And to be honest, here at least, I think the penalties for being in posession of a knock off CD or DVD are way more harsh than for stealing the same from a store.

    all the best,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2008 @11:52AM (#23710499)
    What is a little odd is that Virgin just upgraded all their usenet servers.

    There was a message posted to all the groups on the old news.ntlworld.com server about a month ago.

    It said to change your newserver to news.virginmedia.com and that the new servers had longer retention on the binary groups amoung other things!

    I changed over and the binary groups are much better now. alt.binaries.abandonware is not carried anymore though, so you can only get mostly illigal stuff. :(

    The right hand giveth and the left hand taketh away.

    I guess this is why people don't talk about usenet.
  • by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @12:03PM (#23710737)

    Within 5km of where I live, there are several malls (one huge one, several smaller ones) and countless other small stores located in strip plazas, where pirated CDs and DVDs are available by the thousands if not millions. Six new-release DVDs for $10? No problem. Hollywood? Bollywood? Euro art films? East Asian cinema? No problem. CDs and DVDs filled with mp3 music? No problem.

    This activity has been going on for years and years without pause despite various "crackdown" efforts I read about in the news. It is so utterly brazen that if I had one shred of sympathy for the **AA I would probably find it galling. But instead I find it funny, and strangely reassuring, to to see such rampant and unstoppable piracy on display in the real world.

  • Re:Just you wait (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @12:22PM (#23711031) Journal
    The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) warnings on the end of DVDs already tell you that piracy supports international terrorism and organised crim. Quite how those adverts haven't been bitch-slapped by the advertising standards agency, I have no idea.
  • by mikael ( 484 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @12:45PM (#23711399)
    A single customer at Virgin would pay a lot more than $15 month. Just double pounds and you will get the equivalent price in dollars.

    Broadband -
    2 Mb = 9 pound/month (Size M)
    4 Mb = 16 pound/month (Size L),
    20Mb = 26 pound/month (Size XL)

    Digital TV -
    40 Channels - Free (Size M)
    90 Channels - 9 pounds/month (Size L)
    145 Channels - 19.90 pounds/month (Size XL)

    Landline Phone
    Talk Weekends - 11 pounds/month (Size M)
    Talk Evenings/Weekends - 14.14 pounds/month (Size L)
    Talk Unlimited - 18.95 pounds/month (Size XL)

    Mobile Phone
    Talk Anywhere 200 - 20 pounds/month
    Talk Anywhere 400 - 28 pounds/month
    Talk Anywhere 800 - 40 pounds/month

    A single customer could be paying as much as 50 pounds ($100/month). Virgin already lost 84,000 customers from the lost of Sky One/News, so that is a large amount to lose.
  • Re:I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mistshadow2k4 ( 748958 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @01:52PM (#23712463) Journal

    You eliminate the incentives, you cut back drastically on peoples' willingness to produce, not just the willingness to publish or distribute. Which means that the spread and development of culture and ideas slows down.

    Yeah, that's why open source software is decades behind proprietary software and there are so few open source developers.... oh, wait, it's not like that. Maybe they have plenty of developers and state-of-the-art software in most areas because they attract the people who care about producing a good product, rather than manufactured stars who just want their money. Kind of like the musicians of old whose copyright privileges only covered someone else trying to steal the credit of composing music. You do know that there were musicians before music could be recorded and controlled by the record companies, right? I wonder why, as their copyright so limited, they would bother, since there wasn't much incentive for them to be musicians at all by your argument.

  • by Odder ( 1288958 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @02:51PM (#23713295)

    These are the reasons corporate assholes fear a free press [lewrockwell.com]. They want to be above the law in every way and they don't want you to have a way to complain or do anything about it.

  • by TallMatthew ( 919136 ) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:25PM (#23715021)

    At what point will the powers that be in the record industry realize that they will never get back to making billions off of CDs? What a bunch of whiny little bitches.

    The world changed. But rather than adjust to a new business model (heaven forbid!), they're bullying ISPs into policing the Internet and litigating individuals. All in an attempt to return to a market which will never again exist.

    Worse yet, the MPAA is doing the same thing. They could move first-run movies to pay per view today and make billions, but instead they're sticking to their guns, staggering release dates to try and maximize DVD sales. In the meantime, people are becoming increasingly comfortable downloading rips and screeners off of the various torrent portals.

    This all could have been avoided (and in the movie industry's case, would be avoided), if the corporations would adjust to new technologies instead of trying to squish them. If the Itunes Music Store had opened before Napster, it would be a totally different world.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray