'Dear Pirate' Warning Letters Coming Soon to Alleged UK Copyright Infringers

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Major internet service providers in the U.K. are set to begin sending out piracy warning letters to suspected copyright infringers. According to industry site ISPreview, BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband will activate the alerts, which are described as educational, starting later this month.

The "Dear Pirate" letters are part of a wider initiative led by Creative Content U.K. The first phase, which launched in 2015, was a multi-media awareness campaign that sought to "create wider appreciation of the value and benefits of entertainment content and copyright," according to a press release at the time.

The alerts program will focus on peer-to-peer file sharing, not illegal streaming or file-hosting. As previously reported, the emails will not have a law enforcement component and won't lead to termination of service for suspected freeloaders. ISPs and copyright holders have agreed to capping the letters to 2.5 million per year.

"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 then-business secretary Vince Cable when the initiative was announced in 2014.

BBC News has seen a sample of the letter, which will be sent by ISPs on behalf of Creative Content U.K.'s "Get It Right From a Genuine Site" campaign. "Get it Right is a government-backed campaign acting for copyright owners who think their content's been shared without their permission," the message reads. "It looks like someone has been using your broadband to share copyrighted material (that means things like music, films, sport or books). And as your broadband provider, we have to let you know when this happens."

The note then provides a list of the possibly infringed-upon content and directs users to a website containing "tips and advice on how to stop it happening again."

A similar 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.