Virgin ISP to issue letters to file-sharers

If you can’t beat them, send them a polite letter. This seems to be the latest strategy from the BPI. As the three-strikes policy seems to have failed, several outlets are reporting that the BPI has reached and agreement with Virgin Broadband to issue letters to its customers if there is a suspicion that someone may be illegally file-sharing in that household. The letter itself is quite interesting. It does not directly accuse the account-holder, but it states that:

“We have information that someone – and it may not be you – is using your Virgin Media internet account to access music illegally. However it happened, it is illegal. We therefore need you to take steps to stop it from happening again. The steps you can take are set out in the enclosed ‘What To Do Next’ section. You should know that if you don’t do this and the problem happens again, then you could face legal action.”

This could definitely act as a deterrent, but it may also alienate customers and get them to switch providers. The other problem with this approach is that monitoring is not perfect, and it may produce false positives. The EFF has publicised an interesting study where innocent devices have prompted DMCA cease-and-desist letters just by being connected to BitTorrent.

This has been stated many times before, but it is worth repeating. If the music industry spent as many resources trying to change its business model to respond to the new realities in the digital environment, then they may have found ways of benefiting consumers, musicians and secure profits, while not alienating their customers.

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