Advanced Television

Virgin new music service – and anti-piracy

January 20, 2010

Virgin Media is to launch its music-download service this summer. The company is said to be planning to back the initiative with a cross-platform ad campaign aimed at attracting more customers to Virgin Media’s broadband package.

MusicFish will offer Virgin Media customers the opportunity to stream and download music and video content as part of their broadband package. Virgin Media agreed a deal with Universal Music in June, but has yet to sign up other major labels, although discussions are ongoing.

Virgin Media is trying out new technology that can automatically detect if a customer's broadband connection is being used to download copyrighted files illegally. Called deep packet inspection (DPI), the detection technology categorises all Internet traffic that passes over a customer's connection — be that email, general web surfing or online gaming. Traffic identified as filesharing is subjected to a deeper scan and is said to be checked against a database of music and, potentially, films. Detica, the firm that runs the system for Virgin Media, claims it can tell within seconds whether the specific data being downloaded are, say, family photos or the latest Kings of Leon album.

Virgin and Detica insist that DPI is — for now — being used only to measure the level of illegal filesharing, not to spy on customers. Indeed, they say the key piece of information — the IP address — is ignored in the process.

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