Broadband providers to tackle online pirates with education and advice

A new scheme is seeking to help people who pirate movies and music find an affordable, legal alternative. It’s a bold strategy, but will it pay off? broadbandchoices takes a look.

It's one of the great unanswered questions of the internet age - what can be done about piracy?

For almost as long as the internet's been around, people have been sharing music, movies, games and more illegally, and for almost as long, the companies that publish that music, movies, games and more have been trying to stop people from sharing them illegally.

Typically, the tactic has been to issue legal threats, but it's done little to quell the problem. So now some of the UK's top broadband providers and publishing companies have teamed up with the government to try a new approach - education.

The group behind the scheme is calling itself Creative Content UK, and includes broadband providers Sky, Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk, as well as the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and British Record Music Industry (BPI).

The idea is that anyone caught downloading movies, music and other copyrighted work illegally will be sent a letter by their broadband provider pointing them towards widely-available legal alternatives for getting that material. The idea is that if people realise there's a convenient way to get what they want without stealing it, many will willingly go down the legal route.

Virgin Media explains the idea: "We believe people will ultimately pay if they can get what they want, how they want, at a price that's fair to them."

The group is planning a big, government-funded, multimedia marketing campaign to raise awareness about the legal alternatives to piracy. After that, broadband providers will start sending letters to illegal downloaders. As many as four letters a year could be sent to an individual, but there's no penalty for ignoring them.

Over the last few years, it's become easier and more convenient than ever to get entertainment legally. Catch-up TV services like BBC iPlayer mean that we don't have to worry about missing a show anymore, and Services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer let you tune in to vast libraries of on-demand content for an appealingly low price.

Appealing enough to persuade pirates to turn to them? Well, if nothing else, the Creative Content UK campaign will help us find out.

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