Despite no real evidence of effectiveness, various UK ISPs have now agreed to start sending out "educational" "alerts"
to subscribers that copyright holders accuse of using their internet connection for unauthorized file sharing. This is a modification on the US "six strikes" system, in that these latest alerts are even more meaningless. Unlike the US's "voluntary" system, in which ISPs may take some limited punitive measures, the UK ISPs won't do that. They won't even tell users about the possibility of punitive measures. They'll basically just say "hey, someone spotted you doing something, and we think maybe you should knock it off."
The deal has been struck with the BPI, which represents the British music industry, and the Motion Picture Association (MPA), which covers film.
The bodies had originally suggested the letters should tell repeat infringers about possible punitive measures.
They also wanted access to a database of known illegal downloaders, opening the possibility of further legal action against individuals.
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However, following almost four years of debate between the two sides, the final draft of the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (Vcap) contains neither of those key measures.
Of course, as the BBC article notes, the MPAA/BPI and others wanted much stricter measures, but were unable to get them. And that means this is nothing more than a foot in the door plan. It's easy to make a prediction: when copyright infringement doesn't magically stop, these groups will go running back to the ISPs (and to the UK government) whining about how more "needs to be done."
Within the leaked agreement, one important point: if this system does not have a big effect on piracy, then rights holders will call for the "rapid implementation" of the Digital Economy Act, and all the strict measures that come with it.
Steve Kuncewicz, an expert in online and internet law, agreed. He speculated that the deal "may be a Trojan horse exercise in gathering intelligence about how seriously downloaders take threats".
In other words, if it can be shown that asking nicely does not have a significant effect on curbing piracy, rights holders will for the first time have a seriously credible set of data with which to apply pressure for harder enforcement on those who simply do not want to pay for entertainment.
I would question the "seriously credible set of data." Showing that asking nicely doesn't stop infringement doesn't mean that suddenly pulling out the big ban hammer will actually stop infringement. At this point there's plenty of "seriously credible data" that tougher laws don't stop infringement (or, at least, if they do short term, it doesn't last very long). But, you know, to the big copyright lobbyists, greater enforcement is the only hammer they know. Actually providing consumers with what they want is a concept that they don't spend any time exploring.