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A UK government-backed scheme to curtail the widespread use of pirated copies of music, television and film has officially been launched and - as expected - comes without any harsh penalties being threatened against persistent offenders.

Instead, millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been chucked at an education programme to convince young and old alike to stop nicking content.

The band of piracy botherers, dubbed Creative Content UK, has support from Britain's major ISPs, entertainment giants and cross-party backing from Westminster.

An awareness campaign, propped up by £3.5m in public funds, will be trumpeted by the group in spring 2015. It will attempt "to create wider appreciation of the value and benefits of entertainment content and copyright," said Creative Content UK.

Meanwhile, telcos including BT, Virgin Media and BSkyB have agreed to nag subscribers when their accounts appear to have been used to access pirated material. However, no date has been set for when that "alerts" system will go live.

But, significantly, when that Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) does kick in, customers will arguably have little to panic about, given that the nagging system will only be used to advise account holders that unlawful file-sharing may be taking place on their network connection. They will be politely told where to find legit sources of film, TV and music files.

And that's it.

The compromise on how to tackle piracy fans was reached after years of lobbying from ISPs and the entertainment industry following the arrival of the Digital Economy Act in 2010.

All sides appeared to be relieved to have inked a deal, no matter how pathetic it is.

John Petter, BT's consumer boss, said:

BT is committed to supporting the creative industries by helping to tackle the problem of online piracy while ensuring the best possible experience for its customers.

That’s why we’ve worked very hard with rights-holders and other leading ISPs to develop a voluntary programme based on consumer education and awareness which promotes the use of legal online content.

TalkTalk chief Dido Harding similarly said that the agreement helped the budget ISP to "tackle copyright infringement, but in a way that supports our customers."

So there you have it. British taxpayers and copyright holders are paying millions of pounds to get ISPs to gently advise people that they really ought not be looking at that pirated material being flagged up on their network connection. Cos, y'know, it's bad for business. ®

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