British ISPs throw in the towel, give up sending out toothless copyright infringement warnings

What a waste of time and money that was

Creative Content UK, the organization that terrified British internet users by requiring ISPs to send out emails with accusations of copyright infringement, has decided to drop this questionable practice.

The Get it Right campaign, part-funded by the UK government, will no longer engage suspected pirates directly; instead, it will focus on education, and is due to launch a new initiative in the coming months.

“Having encouraged increased awareness of the value of genuine content and of its many legally available sources, in turn resulting in reduced infringing behaviour, the Get it Right campaign is now moving to its next phase,” a spokesperson for CCUK told El Reg.

“The educational emails sent by ISPs upon detection of infringing file-sharing activity have served their purpose and are ceasing, with the focus instead increasing the broader engagement with fans based around their passion for music, TV, film and all other kinds of creative content.”

The change of direction was spotted by TorrentFreak, a website which has chronicled activities of Get it Right since its inception.

CCUK was established in 2014 by representatives of the movie and music industries to administer a framework called the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), which would involve ISPs in copyright infringement matters.

Under VCAP, copyright protection agencies like the British Phonographic industry (BPI) and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) would monitor popular file exchange resources and collect IP addresses of prolific prates.

These IP addresses were forwarded to ISPs, who would then send emails to persons identified, without revealing their personal details. The first piracy alerts went out in January 2017, with participation of BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, primarily targeting torrenting users.

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The emails warned that copyright infringement was illegal, and offered information on legitimate content sources. It is important to note that the notices did not threaten legal action, and had no legal power whatsoever – unlike the letters that are sometimes sent by copyright owners directly, and which can land you in court.

However, the CCUK letters would include the exact name of the film, book or album downloaded, and the exact time this happened, putting the fear of God into some of the recipients.

It looks like the notifications weren’t very effective, despite claims to the contrary by CCUK: According to government’s own online copyright infringement tracker survey [PDF] published in 2018, 15 per cent of UK internet users aged 12 or older – that's around 6,525,000 people – consumed at least one item of online content illegally in the “past three months,” broadly in line with the findings of the surveys conducted in 2016 and 2017.

One in 10 were identified as “hardcore” infringers who said there was nothing that would make them stop.

Back in April 2018, ISPreview reported that none of the Get it Right participants appeared to have established any criteria for judging the progress of the initiative, and none of the ISPs had shown a willingness to clarify how much it had cost to implement and run. ®

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