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Piracy United Kingdom

For Now, UK Online Pirates Will Get 4 Warnings -- And That's It 143

New submitter Tmackiller writes with an excerpt from The British government has decriminalised online video game, music and movie piracy, scrapping fuller punishment plans after branding them unworkable. Starting in 2015, persistent file-sharers will be sent four warning letters explaining their actions are illegal, but if the notes are ignored no further action will be taken. The scheme, named the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), is the result of years of talks between ISPs, British politicians and the movie and music industries. The UK's biggest providers – BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky – have all signed up to VCAP, and smaller ISPs are expected to follow suit. VCAP replaces planned anti-piracy measures that included cutting users' internet connections and creating a database of file-sharers. Geoff Taylor, chief executive of music trade body the BPI, said VCAP was about "persuading the persuadable, such as parents who do not know what is going on with their net connection." He added: "VCAP is not about denying access to the internet. It's about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice." Officials will still work to close and stem funding to file-sharing sites, but the news appears to mean that the British authorities have abandoned legal enforcement of online media piracy. Figures recently published by Ofcom said that nearly a quarter of all UK downloads were of pirated content." Tmackiller wants to know "Will this result in more private lawsuits against file sharers by the companies involved?"
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For Now, UK Online Pirates Will Get 4 Warnings -- And That's It

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  • Illigal or not? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @08:54AM (#47506955) Homepage
    The article starts off saying that they have been decriminalised, but then the government is still calling them illegal and apparently more people might be sued over this "decriminalised" behaviour. So what exactly is the stare of the legality of pirating in Britain?
    • It's never been criminal. But breaching copyright could get you sued by the copyright owner. The new system of warning letters is replacing a proposed "3 strikes" system where you would lose your internet access after 3 warnings, but with no accountability for being accusing of copyright infringement this was a stupid system.

      The new one is simply sending warning letters to let people know they have been reported as infringing copyright, and so might want to be careful to avoid being sued in the future.

      • Re:Illigal or not? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @09:28AM (#47507193) Homepage

        It's never been criminal.

        Are you a lawyer in the UK? The Crown Prosecution Service say that [] deliberate infringement may be criminal.

        The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 [] also lists criminal penalties such as those copied below. It might be worth getting competent legal advice given jail time is a pretty significant punishment.

        (2A)A person who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public—
            (a)in the course of a business, or
            (b)otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,
        commits an offence if he knows or has reason to believe that, by doing so, he is infringing copyright in that work.

        (4A)A person guilty of an offence under subsection (2A) is liable—
            (a)on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding £50,000, or both;
            (b)on conviction on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.

        • OK, I was referring to downloading a film. If you upload and seed a film the day before release, you could get prosecuted under 2A(b).

          • Even after release, because it means less viewers in movie theaters and less DVDs sold later on...

            • Re:Illigal or not? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by biodata ( 1981610 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @11:11AM (#47507923)
              I think this would be difficult to prove. All experience in the music industry seems to indicate the opposite, that people who listen to music shared by their peers are MORE likely to buy it later than those who don't.
              • I think this would be difficult to prove.

                Since when do they have to prove anything? You're guilty unless proven innocent. As far as I know, they don't even have to prove that a single sale was 'lost' in order to be able to sue you.

      • "The new one is simply sending warning letters to let people know they have been reported as infringing copyright, and so might want to be careful to avoid being sued in the future."

        They should offer a seedbox in Tonga in the same document.
        At least they would see _some_ money.

    • Re:Illigal or not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @09:05AM (#47507045)

      It means it's still illegal, but the government has no interest in enforcing that law. It's going back to just a civil matter, between the copyright holders and the copyright infringers.

      • It means it's still illegal, but the government has no interest in enforcing that law. It's going back to just a civil matter, between the copyright holders and the copyright infringers.

        Nitpic: It does not mean they have no interest in enforcing the law, it means that the government realises that the law is un enforceable however much they'd like to enforce it. In future you will get four warnings and then, by the sound of it, you can pirate download all you want as far as the govt. is concerned. They'll probably still be going after large scale distributors and facilitators. This also means that UK courts will in future be choked beyond capacity with civil suits against copyright infringe

        • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
          Maybe the warnings issued could be used by the IP holders in civil court. Perhaps there should be a fast track IP infringement court.
        • If I was in the position of a copyright-dependent industry body right now, I'd be looking into ways to apply ISPs into doing some of the enforcing. There should be some common ground to work on: Pirates suck up a ridiculous amount of bandwidth.

          • Getting the ISPs to do the enforcement is not the way forward as the "pirates" are the ISPs' customers (after all, they're the ones who are more likely to pay for the fastest connections).

            It'd be like getting car manufacturers to enforce traffic violations.
            • Not if you can demonstrate that some of those pirates consume so much bandwidth they actually cost more than their subscription fee.

              • A lot of the quicker internet packages in the UK are "unlimited", so people are paying for whatever bandwidth they use. I'm with Virgin cable and they do specify that they throttle "excessive" usage during the day (which they count as peak time) after you use too much. However, outside of those times, you get full speed with no limits, so it's pretty easy to specify bandwidth limits for torrents during the day so you don't get throttled.

                If we can't download quick enough, then we can always pay more for a
      • by Demena ( 966987 )
        Do not treaties require the UK to be active in this?
    • It doesn't make a blind bit of difference to the criminalisation of IP infringement, it just makes the first step towards closer government interventions. []

    • Interestingly a cursory reading of the relevant law suggests that it's only supplying IP-infringing goods that is a criminal offense in the UK; being a recipient is at most a civil offense.

    • Being sued in Britain is less of a worry than the US though. They would have to actually prove damages rather than just prove infringement. Unless they somehow manage to argue that a person is responsible for any and all copies and descendents of the original, this will be a fairly modest amount.

      If someone ended up having to pay £200 or so for illegally distributing a £10 movie to 20 people I'm not going to have a lot of sympathy for them.
      • Of course you have to actually show up in court on the relevant days, having filed the appropriate motions and paid the appropriate fees, to make the case that "no, I'm not responsible for any and all copies and descendents of the original". Otherwise the people suing you win by default. And then maybe at the end you can recover your fees again, and if you are very very lucky, the cost of your time.

        • That's what a lawyer is for. So it's his time and his time costs your money, which is far easier to get back.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's still a tort, aka civil violation. It means you can't be arrested for it, and that someone has to proactively go after you (as a plaintiff), not just make a complaint and let the state prosecution do the work. It also means that the plaintiff can seek compensatory and punitive damages, but they can't put you in jail.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      Soon they will be called Undocumented Owners. Then they get immunity. Problem solved.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is this 4 warnings per ISP, per year?

    It seems to me that there should be a cycle date, because users may go through different ISP's at some point, or have new friends/roommates/parents that don't give a royal **** about filesharing.

    Personally I nag my parents every time I visit because I've seen all the pirated stuff they have. If it was ever available to buy or VOD, then I make the same kind of Frustrated Marge "hgrnnnmmm" noise, when the "Homer's" in my family pirate things.

  • If people are illegally sharing stuff, then get 4 pieces of paper, print stuff with ink, and mail it to them? Why bother wasting the ink, paper and postage to send the letters if no further actions are to be taken?
    • RTFS? It says that in the summary. The goal here is to alert people who don't know their internet connection is being used for piracy and who aren't OK with freeloading, parents being the given example.

      • Because parents in 2014 are cavemen who don't know how technology works.

        A simple phone call would be better. You get confirmation that the warning has been received and understood, you don't waste paper and you don't waste energy moving that piece of paper around.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          You're a parent. Which are you more likely to listen to?
          1) A robo-letter addressed and stamped by the government
          2) A robo-call that requires listening for more than half a second once you realize it's a robot

          If you're worried about waste and efficiency, then you go down the rabbit hole of
          3) They should just send an email
          4) They should just send nothing
          5) They should just repeal those stupid laws and let crowdfunding fill the void.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah right. Like anyone would listen to some twit on the phone waffling on about copyright.

          They'd just get told to f*** off and the phone would be slammed down after about 5 seconds. Same as happens to all the other scammers.

          Nobody with a brain ever listens to any sort of phone spiel any more.

          • "slammed down"? can I slam the phone down if I'm on a cell? ;-) Seriously though, there's something just... unsatisfying... about hanging up on a scammer (or just anyone you're pissed off at) when all you can do is press a button to cut them off.
        • Show me one parent who gives a shit about copyright. If a letter comes with contents to the ring of "you might be sued for billions and billions", at least it will turn the older generation against the overreaching copyright too...

        • You only get confirmation if you use a live telephone operator. The labor fees would cost a fortune; mailing letters is much cheaper. You could do robo-calls, but there's going to be some kind of cost associated with that as well.
    • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @09:09AM (#47507061)

      Because they can turn around in a few years when this is normalised behaviour and say "Hey, isn't it ridiculous that we know who all these inveterate pirates are, but we aren't doing anything? Maybe we should pass a simple law that fines them a few hundred quid, that's not much of a problem, is it?"

    • Because your government overlords are willing to be mistaken, out of line, morally repugnant, and regularly wasteful.

      What they are ultimately incapable of is remaining benign, since this "issue" is important to some voter or campaign contributor.

      Something must be done.

    • Because the warnings will be stored in a database. A few years down the line they can then try stealthing something into law and at that point they have a nice big database full of confirmed pirates to monitor closely until they catch them and wallop them with huge fines. Remember we have the pr0n filters now and even folks who opt-out still go through the filter but it doesn't block the connection. It isn't a great leap to hook that up to a list of known pirates and flag up each time one of them goes to a
    • If people are illegally sharing stuff, then get 4 pieces of paper, print stuff with ink, and mail it to them? Why bother wasting the ink, paper and postage to send the letters if no further actions are to be taken?

      Yeah, they should save the paper, ink, and postage costs and distribute the letters through Bittorrent instead.

  • Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bleh-of-the-huns ( 17740 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @09:03AM (#47507027)

    Geoff Taylor, chief executive of music trade body the BPI, said VCAP was about "persuading the persuadable, such as parents who do not know what is going on with their net connection." He added: "VCAP is not about denying access to the internet. It's about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice."

    We could not get file sharers drawn and quartered, so we are going to spin the decision that we fought kicking and screaming to our advantage and make us look better than we really are.

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @09:11AM (#47507069)

    ... in litigation.

    In court, a person could not use the, "Gee ... I didn't know," defense.

    • I would hope that the recording industry worldwide has learned from the example of the MAFIAA, where judges started throwing out their massive fishing-expedition style lawsuits against hundreds of John Does based on the flimsiest of proof. The courts in the United States have made it clear that it is not their job to help the MAFIAA make a profit, and I would hope that judges in the UK rule the same way.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @09:35AM (#47507225) Journal
      Yes the 4 letters show a history of infringement and the isp's can show bandwidth use too. Its the legal cover for the hard part of traditional cases for free via a stored database of letters sent.
      Some nice political cover and colour of law. They only want to educate you with warnings.
      Its the lawyers that take the final step to seek an identity. The gov and providers can walk away from any long term logging questions. Months of stored logs are just for the 4 letter compliance.
      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        Well, it's not for free. The industry is paying ISPs £750,000 one off + £75,000 per year. The ISPs have to pay £250,000 towards it and £25,000 per year.

        I'd be amazed if they even ever see a return on that investment. As someone else pointed out in the UK you don't get the absurd escalation of penalty costs in court that you do in the US, you actually have to prove damages and only get actual damages. Even if they do litigate that amount they'll gain from doing

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Thats a lot of cash to just spend on letters and a database. The letters get tracking and logging started within a legal gov framework. Someone seems to see a long term plan with the letters and logging funding. The chilling effect of just knowing your in a database and all your net use is been reviewed? Interconnected local databases? A digital version of the classic anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) at a 'community-based level?
          That could see a vast network of watching, logging, reporting and costl
        • When you use a torrent you are also sending data blocks. So even if you leach you are still "supplying" while you are downloading. This make the situation civilly more precarious and becomes criminal too.
          • by Xest ( 935314 )

            No, only when there is a profit motive in supplying does it become a criminal case. If you're supplying without charging it's still very much a civil case.

            • by Demena ( 966987 )
              But there is a benefit gained (profit is the wrong word). The benefit gained from the supply of the blocks you have already received is getting g the remaining blocks.
              • by Xest ( 935314 )

                However you may and wish to try and twist the argument to cover up your misunderstanding that's still not what is deemed in law to be criminal infringement because it's still not commercial activity.

                You may dislike the word profit but that's generally the key factor, the only exceptions are if you're say doing it to encourage your business to grow in other areas - i.e. you can have this "free" illegal copy if you buy something else from us.

                Using BitTorrent in a personal capacity is by definition not a comme

                • by Demena ( 966987 )
                  Commercial or not it is a legally proscribed act from which you obtain a benefit, I also point out that the UK law is based on common law not constitutional law. If you disagree with me then ask another lawyer. Relying on that reasoning when caught will not work.
                  • by Xest ( 935314 )

                    Don't say "ask another lawyer" when you're clearly not a lawyer. I don't know what you're on about mentioning the UK is based on common law not constitutional law, yes, well done, so what, what was the insertion of that random factoid about exactly? Do you feel that if you add in random quotations about different law in different jurisdictions that that somehow adds weight to your argument on this particular case? It really doesn't, it looks like a really really poor attempt at misdirection.

                    Criminal copyrig

                    • by Demena ( 966987 )
                      Stop digging? You are digging fast enough for both of us. I am not and never claimed to be a lawyer. Nor do I need to be. I have access to a sufficiency. Not that I have consulted them over this as I would not trust them as most of them since they have other specialities.

                      My sentence was meant to be read as your current one does not seem to be that good. Yet you fastened on a less likely alternative and latched on to it with certainty as if it were an absolute truth.

                      And there is the issue, 'certainty

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        I hope this results in two things:

        1. More people use a VPN to block ISP monitoring.

        2. Someone sues over the accusation that they infringed copyright.

      • Well, the 4 letters show a history of alleged infringement, but I'd be surprised if they count as anything more than hearsay unless there's a reasonable process to go through to contest the letters.
    • So they are going to pay extra to have proof that the letter was delivered, and to whom? What a giant waste of our money.
    • Maybe then the "sorry, I don't read spam" defense?

    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      You can't use that defense anyway, ignorance is not an excuse legally speaking.

  • by Baki ( 72515 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @09:22AM (#47507141)

    I hope and think that the brainwashing of the younger "freeloading" generation will fail.
    It is truely disgusting to see the attempts to brainwash the people to protect vested economic interests.
    The collateral damage to prevent sharing of bitstreams is just too high.
    We cannot prevent this, neither with laws nor with brainwashing. Sharing is just too easy and natural.

    We'll have to adapt our economic model to the new reality instead, the "new normal".

    • File sharing is in fact so natural that my house cat just sent a copy of a Steven Demetre Georgiou album to the neighbour's cat.

    • Sharing is more than easy and natural, it's good. Sharing is so important to civilzations that early ones developed writing systems to facilitate it, and later ones have been improving it ever since. Reading and writing used to be only for the nobility, for the practical reason that educating everyone was more expense than was thought worthwhile, though this was also correctly seen as an excuse not to educate the masses. Words were terribly subversive, best if the people can't read them. The pen is not

    • We teach our kids in preschool that they should share, and then we punish them for it.

      Talk 'bout mixed messages...

  • How much did this cost?

  • by countach ( 534280 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @10:11AM (#47507507)

    On the one hand, its nice that this regime is measured and not over the top. On the other hand, if I hadn't pirated anything, because my flatmates/kids/friends/neighbours had done something I didn't know about, I'd still be pissed off receiving that letter. I don't think the good people of the UK should be completely satisfied with this situation. There should be a way to push back and say, no I didn't do it, take your stinking letter back.

    • by magpie ( 3270 )
      They will be sending the letter to the person who's name appears on the bill. If your that person and didn't do it, the point is for you to have words with the person doing it or have the name changed on the bill to thiers. Basically it's saying "Hey your name is being associated with dodgy activity, you might want to stop this, but over to you about what you do."
      • Most people in this situation have no hope of knowing who did it. For example, I have 4 flatmates. If one of them does something like this, I would have no way of finding out which one it was. So its an utter waste of time. If I had kids at home, I'm sure they would all deny it too, like kids always do. If I had friends over, what am I going to ring my friends and accuse them? Ha!

    • If I were in the UK, and received such a letter, it would be interesting information for me, because I like to know how my connection is being used. It's only an informational letter, after all.

  • by Peter Simpson ( 112887 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @10:12AM (#47507527)
    It's because there's no convenient way (other than pirating) to get the media you want to watch/listen to, when you want to watch/listen to it. If the media companies would make *everything* available under a subscription model (like Netflix), there would be no need to go to Pirate Bay to get it. I suspect much of what is pirated is watched once. Figure $60/yr for a VPN, or $20/mo for Netflix (which, sadly, doesn't have a tenth what's available by torrent), and the media companies could do pretty well...if they would only do it.
    • by ruir ( 2709173 )
      Amen to that. I am buying Apple apps because they are convenient, far more apps then I have bought all my life. If Apple/the film industry wanted to put music and films at reasonable prices, with the infra-structure they have already in place, they would take the market by storm. There is a lost opportunity here.
    • That's just the tip of the ice cube.

      Imagine you're living in a country where movies are dubbed. Dubbed BADLY, I should probably add. I would PAY to get movies that run on public TV if I could only watch them without the atrocious dubbing!

      And don't think that buying the DVD would solve that problem. Because of course you can ONLY get the dubbed version, while importing any media is of course outlawed. I tried to ask some politicians around here why it's ok for companies to manufacture abroad and import them

    • I already pay $10 a month for Spotify and $8 a month for Netflix. I am uncomfortable with the DRM and try to download full albums when I like them rather than just a song from them, but for most of my listening Spotify is great. I would happily pay four times what I pay Netflix if there was an equivalent selection of movies and TV, and equivalent good performance. Right now Netflix's selection is really limited, and there are occasional streaming problems (Amazon's streaming service is complete garbage comp

    • Not to mention there are things available by torrent I could not buy if I wanted to. For examples: 1) Linux-native Half-Life 2 that doesn't require Steam. 2) Windows 7 that can be installed to, from, or run from a USB flash drive. If these corps would stop slinging artificially crippled tech I'd pay for it.
  • This sounds a lot like the "copyright alert system" that ISPs and the MPAA and RIA started 2 years ago. You get an email form your ISP when you illegally download copies of Game of Thrones on bittorrent. Or so I've been told.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't even mention that BS..

      Somebody in our Network decided to download GoT, and we got the letter.

      Our lawyer came directly to me (the IT manager of a small company).

      Called the ISP (name withheld on purpose), and they couldn't give me anymore details for me to hunt down what was going on, my logs firewall logs had already rolled over, so the ISP was useless to my investigation, and all I got was: reset the wifi password from them.

      My response to the laywer, ISP told us to reset wifi password, done, and there

  • What happens if I share completely legal software? How are they supposed to tell if what I am sharing is in fact legal to share freely? I am constantly playing around with VMs and what not and love playing with various systems. So what happens to nerds like me who just happen to use a lot of bandwidth just tinkering? I think this is ridiculous on so many levels. Besides just because torrents are being used doesn't mean you are doing something illegal. A lot of free software is shared via torrents. Well I a

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears