No penalties for persistent illegal downloads in blunt new UK anti-piracy campaign

No penalties for persistent illegal downloads in blunt new UK anti-piracy campaign
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

July 22nd 2014 at 11:05AM

Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme begins next year

A new UK campaign aimed at stemming the piracy of games, films and music will allow internet service providers to warn alleged persistent offenders about their actions, but will not result in any legal action.

The scheme, known as Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme, will launch in spring 2015. ISPs will be able to send up to four warnings a year to users believed to be infringing copyright, explaining to them that their actions are unlawful, and offering legitimate sources of entertainment.

But for those who ignore the messages, no action will be taken.

ISPs to have signed up to the initiative include BT, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. The Government has pledged £3.5m in funding to an education campaign to raise awareness on piracy.

Vcap is the result of years of negotiations between entertainment companies and ISPs. Many film, games and music firms had hoped for much stricter and robust action for persistent offenders, including powers to cut internet access, as well as access to information on such offenders.

The UK’s creative industries are said to contribute as much as £71.4 billion towards the UK economy, supporting 1.71 million jobs. In games alone, there is believed to be more than 620 games studios, with 18,093 jobs directly supported by the sector.

The actual effects of illegal downloads on games businesses and other creative sectors is widely debated. While many state it directly affects sales, others also claim those who illegally download content would likely not have purchased it in the first place.

In November last year, Sports Interactive head Miles Jacobson revealed at the London Games Conference that Football Manager 2013 had been illegally downloaded 10.1 million times. He also stated that sales dropped significantly after the game was cracked.

Jacobson estimated that piracy had cost the studio 176,000 in lost sales.

According to a TIGA survey in October last year, only ten per cent believed that stricter enforcement of intellectual property rights was the solution to illegal downloading and file-sharing. 73 per cent also disagreed with cutting off internet connections to persistent offenders who ignored warnings.

More than half the respondents however, 57 per cent, reported that piracy had a direct impact on their business, and had also been unsuccessful in their own attempts to reduce it.