BPI and Virgin Media Agree to Start Warning Uploaders

The British Phonographic Industry and UK ISP Virgin Media have done a deal which will see thousands of file-sharers getting warnings. The BPI will use its resources to track file sharers and will then hand the information to Virgin who will send out their own warnings to the customer along with a letter from the BPI.

VirginMedia
In 2008, the ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ concept has been gathering pace around the globe. Get caught uploading three times, and the anti-piracy groups would like your Internet connection disconnected. Unsurprisingly, most people aren’t that keen on this plan, and ISPs who revealed to be considering such systems have received lots of bad press.

In the UK and at the forefront of this controversy has been Virgin Media. Various reports suggested that Virgin would implement the 3-strikes policy with the BPI but this proved very unpopular and it took just a few days for Virgin to deny any such deal had been struck.

Undeterred, the BPI has carried on working with Virgin who, according to a Music Week report, have now agreed to some sort of halfway-house. Virgin will not (yet) disconnect persistent uploaders, but after receiving information from the BPI about users making unauthorized uploads, Virgin Media will start sending out warning letters along with ‘educational’ advice about how to ensure that the customer’s account isn’t ‘misused’. Included in the advice will be links to authorized music sources, along with the usual fear mongering about viruses and spyware.

In this 10-week trial, along with the letter from Virgin, the subscriber will also receive a warning letter from the BPI. It will state that persistent offenders will be disconnected and/or taken to court, despite the fact that Virgin appears to be refusing to disconnect users so far.

BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said: “Virgin Media is the first ISP to publicly address the problem. It is a socially responsible ISP and I think other ISPs will look at this and see progress. I am very encouraged they have engaged with us. They understand the rights of musicians.”

A Virgin Media spokesman added: “We want people to enjoy music online without infringing the rights of musicians and music companies. This campaign is about helping our customers understand how they can do this.”

It’s unclear what the BPI strategy will be on this but to really put Virgin under pressure, it will probably decide to put IP-addresses it collects into a database. This way it would be easy to flag IP-addresses that had already been ‘caught’ before, and put these IPs forward to Virgin as persistent users – prime candidates for disconnection. Virgin Media (unlike comparable ADSL ISPs in the UK) hand out static IP addresses, so most users will be an easy target as they display the same IP address all the time. But for those Virgin customers with a router, simply changing the MAC address of the unit will force Virgin to hand over a new IP, which then offers the user the same perceived ‘protection’ as a dynamic IP ISP.

So at the end of it all lies a very large inconsistency. If a casual uploader simply gets a warning from the BPI/Virgin and only persistent, regularly-caught users MIGHT be disconnected or MIGHT get taken to court (in a civil action, of course), why has the BPI ignored all of these things while effectively directing the police that the recently arrested uploaders from OiNK should be treated as serious criminals?

TorrentFreak knows that at least two of those accused uploaded just a single album. Persistent? Hardly. Conspiring to Defraud? Give us a break.

Where were their friendly, education-based warnings from the ISP?

Update:The Register ran a piece and are also hosting copies of the letters that will be sent out to users. You can find the Virgin letter here and the BPI letter here.

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