Virgin Media, plagued by a recent flurry of bad publicity thanks to its policy of working with the music industry to warn file-sharers, has announced today that there is “absolutely no possibility” that it will disconnect its users from the Internet or hand over their details to the music industry.
As the war of words over file-sharing in the UK heats up, the music industry represented by the BPI has been seeking ways to stop an estimated 6 million British citizens from sharing music. It has been pressurizing ISPs to take responsibility for the actions of their subscribers, and demanding that they disconnect those who share unauthorized music, something the ISPs don’t want to do.
To its credit, one ISP, Carphone Warehouse, has refused to comply. Others are working with the music industry and at the forefront of that group is Virgin Media.
Virgin has been receiving quite a lot of bad publicity recently after it was revealed that it agreed to work with the music industry to send out so-called ‘educational warnings‘ to its customers the BPI accuse of file-sharing. Virgin has sent out hundreds of these at the behest of the music industry and they have been dropping through mail boxes up and down the country. The letters come in an envelope and printed on the outside are the words: “Important: If you don’t read this, your broadband could be disconnected” so recipients could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that, frankly, if they don’t read it, their broadband could be disconnected.
However, Virgin Media told has told Jim over at Newsbeat that the printing on the envelope was “a mistake” and there is “absolutely no possibility” of legal action or disconnection for any recipient of these letters. Nice to know.
Furthermore, Asam Ahmad from Virgin notes that they cannot be 100% sure that the person they send the letters to has actually committed any offense at all. “It is important to let our customers know that their accounts have been used in a certain way but we are happy to accept it may not be the account holder that’s involved.”
He goes on to highlight the problematic issue of incorrectly accusing someone due to a lack of solid evidence: “It could be someone else in the family or someone living in a shared house. It could even be someone stealing wi-fi. We are not making any form of accusation.”
Virgin Media has also stated that it will not hand over the personal details of anyone accused by the BPI “under any circumstances”. This is a good start by Virgin and all credit to them for taking this stance but the reality is that Virgin hands over its subscriber’s details in the blink of an eye when faced with a court order to do so. We know for a fact that they hand over the details of petty file-sharers to the likes of lawyers Davenport Lyons for the alleged sharing of one cheap game costing little more than a single album. However, the BPI has said in the past that it doesn’t want to start taking legal action against individuals.