MPAA Considered Pulling Out of UK Pirate Notice Program

This year the entertainment industries reached agreement with the UK government to begin sending warning notices to Internet pirates. However, TorrentFreak has learned that the MPAA considered pulling out, fearful that the so-called VCAP scheme might prove ineffective.

One of the cornerstones of modern online piracy schemes are so-called ‘copyright alert’ programs. The idea is simple – rightsholders monitor online file-sharing networks, capture IP addresses of alleged pirates and have ISPs send warnings to subscribers.

Several countries in the world currently operate these systems. France was one of the pioneers but the largest project is handled with the cooperation of the largest ISPs in the United States. In the summer a new deal was reached between the music and movie industries and the government to bring notices to the UK.

However, TorrentFreak has learned that just three months earlier Hollywood was getting cold feet over the scheme. Leaked emails reveal that the MPAA was giving consideration to the consequences of pulling out of VCAP (or delaying it by 18 months) due to the group not having enough information on the effectiveness of notice-only, no punishment schemes.

Since consequences could include political fallout due to UK government involvement in VCAP, the MPAA decided to send former Senator Chris Dodd to the UK. Dodd met Ed Vaizey, the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, and Tim Luke, Prime Minister David Cameron’s Senior Policy Advisor, in the first week of March 2014.

Dodd returned with plenty of praise for Vaizey whose apparent efforts in paving the way for site blocking and attacking the finances of pirate sites were showing results. Nevertheless, there were sticking points.

It appears that a notice-only warning system, one in which subscribers aren’t punished for their actions, was not something the MPAA aspired to. This left the MPAA wondering whether launching VCAP quickly would be a favorable thing to do.

Interestingly, Dodd also made it clear to Vaizey that the MPAA was seriously considering the political implications of when VCAP should begin, a point not lost on the politicians.

Both Vaizey and Luke felt that if notices only started going out in the months preceding the May 2015 general election that would be an unwelcome development. A delay on notice-sending until the fall of 2015 was preferred all round.

Whatever happened in the interim period, in May news leaked that an agreement had been reached and by June the MPAA were confirming internally that a Memorandum of Understanding had indeed been signed.

Despite public comments welcoming the VCAP agreement it seems clear that the MPAA would prefer a system with account suspensions and disconnections. For now, however, that is not on the agenda.

At this point it appears Hollywood will give VCAP time to work, but could pull out at a later point if the public simply isn’t getting the message.

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