Research: Warning letters unlikely to stop illegal downloads

Research by broadband comparison website Broadband Genie has revealed the majority (72 per cent) of the public believe piracy warning letters sent by UK ISPs are unlikely to have any impact. Under the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), educational letters are sent to Internet users who are believed to have infringed copyright by sharing material online.

When asked what action would be most effective to stop online piracy, respondents said lower costs for legal content (19 per cent), threat of court action (22 per cent) and the threat of losing their broadband service (22 per cent). However, it was also found that a considerable proportion of users (29 per cent) felt that nothing would stop people from downloading or sharing copyrighted material.

“If an account continues to be used to share copyrighted content illicitly, further emails may be sent. This ensures that people who might have missed an earlier email receive another one – but also allows time for account holders to take steps to address the issue,” explained a spokesman for the ‘Get it Right From A Genuine Site’ campaign in terms of what would happen to users that choose not to change their online activity after being sent an initial educational e-mail.

“The educational e-mails are a targeted education and awareness raising initiative and will not automatically trigger further action. The purpose is to educate UK consumers about the many sources of legal content available, highlight the value of the UK’s creative industries and reduce online copyright infringement.”

However, it was also found that many users are confused about what constitutes legal and illegal activity. 26 per cent did not identify sharing copyrighted material without permission as being illegal, while 39 per cent said that merely using a peer-to-peer network was against the law, which isn’t true if the network is used for legitimate purposes.

“The ISP warning letters may stop a few who are unaware they’re downloading and sharing illegally, but it’s ultimately going to have little impact on those knowingly participating in this activity,” suggested Rob Hilborn, Head of Strategy at Broadband Genie. “The current approach is the bare minimum ISPs have to do to appease the government and avoid legislation forcing them to take tougher measures.”

“The age-old excuse of legal content being too expensive is less relevant these days. Services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant and Spotify have done a lot to drive down costs. There’s also a movement towards one month contracts, so in most cases it’s fairly simple to chop-and-change to get the content you want.”

“However, content providers and copyright holders should avoid putting up barriers such as region blocking, as this encourages users to seek out alternative sources in order to gain access to content. Sky and NOW TV’s delivery of Game Of Thrones last year is a great example of how content can be delivered globally on multiple platforms,” he noted.

 

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