Music and film industry bodies have adopted a new tack in efforts to clamp down on piracy in the UK.
UK recorded music industry trade association BPI and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) appear to have backed away from demands for punitive measures against individuals, reports the BBC.
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After years of resistance from UK internet service providers (ISPs) over the cost of policing customers, the BPI and MPA have reached an agreement on tackling piracy, according to a leaked document.
Under the new agreement, ISPs will send suspected illegal downloaders a series of “educational” letters, and rights holders represented by the BPI and MPA will contribute funds to the scheme.
The rights holders have agreed to pay £750,000 towards each ISP to set up the system and each year thereafter to cover administration costs, or 75% of the total costs – whichever is smaller.
BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are expected to be the first ISPs to sign up to the deal, with the remaining UK ISPs to follow.
The first letters aimed at increasing awareness of legal downloading services are expected to be sent in 2015, but there will be a cap of four alerts to any individual.
And while language will “escalate in severity”, the letters will not contain any threats of punitive measures.
The deal is expected to be finalised pending approval from the Information Commissioner's Office regarding the collection of data about which customers receive alerts.
The deal requires ISPs to retain for up to a year records of which accounts receive letters and the number of letters they receive.
The rights holders will receive a monthly report of how many alerts have been sent out, but only the ISPs will know the identities of the account holders involved.
ISPs are expected to be happy with the new deal, but industry commentators say the new tactic by rights holders could be part of a wider plan.
The agreement states that an ineffective system would lead rights holders to call for "rapid implementation" of stronger measures as outlined in the Digital Economy Act.
The controversial Act introduced in 2010 includes measures to deal with copyright infringement including, but not limited to, cutting off repeat offenders from the internet.
This means the deal could be aimed at proving the letters have little effect and that more punitive measures are required, internet law expert Steve Kuncewicz told the BBC.