The top five US internet service providers (ISPs) have agreed with film and music producers to issue warnings to customers suspected of online piracy and to take action against repeat offenders.
Earlier in the week, UK communications minister Ed Vaizey said such an agreement would be a "game-changer". Vaizey said the US move could pave the way for the UK to clamp down on websites hosting pirated material.
The government is looking for a way to stop websites hosting pirated material or streaming live sporting events without permission. But UK ISPs have so far resisted attempts by copyright holders to pressure them into filtering content.
Although a huge step forward, the US deal stops short of cutting off internet connections to IP (internet protocol) addresses associated with repeat offenders, as has been demanded by content producers.
Instead, suspected pirates will receive up to six warnings, with the final notification accompanied by extra measures such as reduced transmission speeds until the users call the ISPs to discuss the matter or respond to educational material about copyright law, according to the Financial Times.
The ISPs say they believe most people who receive multiple warnings will stop using peer-to-peer networks to download unauthorised content. The ISPs point out that, in many cases, the subscribers are parents unaware of their children's activities. But content providers have not ruled out taking legal action against the worst offenders.
Just days after Ed Vaizey said people have the right to earn money from the content they create, a report says illegally downloaded films in the UK has increased nearly 30% in the past five years. The report said illegal TV downloads has increased 33%.
Research by internet consultancy firm Envisional shows the five most popular films were illegally downloaded in the UK 1.4 million times last year. The top five most popular TV shows were illegally downloaded 1.24 million times , according to the BBC.
Film industry bosses say piracy is costing £170m every year and putting thousands of jobs at risk.
The UK's controversial Digital Economy Act, which seeks to curb online piracy as part of government efforts to stimulate the economy, makes provision to block access to websites.
But ISPs BT and TalkTalk are challenging the Digital Economy Act (DEA) in court, claiming the way they will be forced to police their networks will be unfair.
The initial challenge to the DEA and subsequent appeal have been rejected by the courts. But the ISPs are making a final attempt to repeal the DEA in October.