People in the U.K. suspected of pirating copyrighted material online will soon be getting a light slap on the wrist as part of a new consumer awareness program between the nation's leading Internet service providers, U.K.-based creative industries, and the government.
The two-tiered campaign will be run by Creative Content U.K., a newly formed partnership between ISPs and rights-holder groups.
Phase one will launch sometime before Spring 2015, when the group rolls out a multi-media awareness campaign that "aims to create wider appreciation of the value and benefits of entertainment content and copyright," according to a press release.
The second phase, which does not have a date attached, will be driven by a new alert system in which ISPs send out warnings to subscribers when it is believed "unlawful filesharing may have taken place" on their Internet connections. Possible abusers will be gently advised -- up to four times per year, according to Gigaom -- on where to find legitimate sources for legal content.
"Education is at the heart of this drive so people understand that piracy isn’t a victimless crime -- but actually causes business to fail, harms the industry and costs jobs," said Business Secretary Vince Cable.
The alerts program does not have a law enforcement component and will not lead to termination of service for suspected freeloaders. In 2010, Parliament passed the Digital Economy Act, which directly addressed digital media and conceivably could have led to website-blocking on grounds of copyright infringement, but much of its implementation has been delayed or repealed.
A similar "Dear Pirate" system of sending alerts to potential infringers was launched in the U.S. in February 2013 by the Center for Copyright Information and their label partners. Dubbed the Copyright Alert System, the service sends a series of notices via ISPs to customers suspected of piracy. Like in Britain, there are no criminal penalties or fines for serious offenders.
In July 2013, France revoked a controversial law that gave authorities the green light to unplug offenders who repeatedly downloaded copyrighted material. The system sent millions of warnings and was unpopular.