In 2010, it was suggested by the Digital Economy Act (DEA) to cut off offenders from their broadband if they were to be discovered downloading online content illegally through piracy. This idea was however opposed by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who stated that it would require for users to be policed. A further argument was also debated about whether the internet should be considered a human right. After a 4 year debate, a new piracy act has finally been developed in order to face the online offenders. It has been reported that BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have all agreed to send ‘educational’ letters to those customers who are believed to be downloading illegally.
Despite the new piracy act due to be in place by 2015, there is still great disappointment with the act which is set to take considerably weaker measures than originally requested by the likes of the BPI who represent the music industry and the Motion Pictures Association (MPA). It was originally requested for letters to be sent out to offenders, warning them of possible punitive measures as well as taking the names of the offenders from the database and potentially taking further legal action against individuals illegally downloading in great quantities. Despite these demands, it is reported that the final draft of the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme contains neither of the measures suggested and has been watered down beyond all recognition. It is expected that owners of the downloaded material are likely to be dissatisfied with the end result.
The letters/emails to be sent have been tailored so that they are purely educational and contain no threats or talk of consequences that may occur from participating in piracy. An annual alert cap is to be set, preventing more than 4 alerts per user each year and limiting at no more than 2.5million alerts to be sent out between all 4 ISPs. The cap will then continue to be adjusted as more and more ISPs join the fight against piracy. As the number of letters increase to a single user, language will escalate in severity however must still not contain threats or consequences in any written or visual form. Rights holders will receive the number of alerts from their data being downloaded each month, however details of the offender will not be shared. Each record will be kept for up to a year and is expected for the new act to last 3 years with constant reviews of effectiveness.
So far, the deal confirms that the rights holders are to pay £750,000 or 75% of total cost if it is cheaper, to ISPs in order to fund the new act, followed by a further £75,000 or 75% payment each year in order to cover administration fees. Other UK ISPs are expected to join the cause at a later date, however the real question is, who is benefitting most? ISPs or the rights holders who are having their work stolen? Only time will tell, however a finalized deal is expected to be made soon.